Taco pasta casserole is a kid’s favorite! Our taco pasta bake is loaded with lean ground beef, salsa, pasta, and cheese, it’s baked into the perfect weeknight casserole. Serve topped with taco sauce and diced tomatoes. Gluten-free.
With the kids heading back to school and life getting a bit busier, we got into the routine of making the same meals week after week. So, we decided it was time to change up our dinner menu!
Packed with flavor and nutrition, this taco pasta is going to be a top favorite in your home. It is always a great idea to keep kid-friendly ground beef recipes in mind for those nights when you need to change up your family’s routine. Now, you can add Taco Pasta to that list!
This taco pasta recipe is definitely a keeper. Everyone in your family will love it. Plus, you will always have leftovers after making this dish. It reheats really well, which makes it a great option for lunch the next day. Especially, if you have kids that have gone to virtual learning.
Start by cooking the onions and ground beef. In a large skillet, add a drizzle of olive oil then sauté the onions until they are translucent (about 3-4 minutes).
PRO TIP: Heat the olive oil before adding the onions to the pan. Otherwise, the onions will soak up the oil instead of cooking in it.
Next, add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink. As a Registered Dietitian, I recommend using a lean 90/10 beef in ground beef recipes.
Nutrition Tip: If you do use 80/20 or 70/30 ground beef, drain the excess fat to reduce the total fat content while preventing your recipe from being greasy.
Prepare the rigatoni by bringing a pot of water to a boil then cook the pasta per box instructions (about 10 minutes). Drain using a strainer and set to the side.
PRO TIP: Enhance the flavor of your dish by salting the pasta water instead of the pasta. Think 4:1 – for every 4-quarts of water, add 1 TBSP of salt to the pot.
Next, add the salsa, refried beans, and taco seasoning to the large skillet with the ground beef and onions. Mix well.
In a large bowl, combine the rigatoni, ground beef mixture, and 1/2 (1 cup) of the cheese. Mix until combined.
Homemade Taco Seasoning
Make a homemade taco seasoning to customize the flavor to your family’s preference.
In the past, I would go to make a Mexican-style dish and not have a taco seasoning packet on hand. But, I always had individual spices. A few years ago, I decided it was time to make my own Homemade Taco Seasoning. Now, I have taco seasoning for any recipe at any time.
PRO TIP: For mild taco seasoning, skip the red pepper flakes. For a spicy taco seasoning, add 1 tsp of cayenne pepper or double the red pepper flakes.
In a 9 x 13-inch baking pan, add the beef mixture. Top with the remaining cheese (1 cup).
Ingredient Swap: I use a shredded Mexican cheese blend for this taco pasta recipe. However, you could swap it for shredded cheddar or Colby jack cheese.
You could even make a DIY Mexican-style cheese by sprinkling taco seasoning on any shredded cheese and mixing it together.
Of course! You could swap the ground beef for a lean ground turkey or ground chicken. You could even swap the ground beef with beans for a vegetarian alternative.
I recommend rigatoni because it is a large noodle that pairs well with the ground meat mixture. However, you could swap the rigatoni for your favorite. Keep in mind that you might need to adjust the cooking time of the pasta. Smaller noodles require a shorter cooking time.
Yes, you can! To reheat, add the leftovers to a microwave-safe bowl with a splash of water and heat until it reaches 165 degrees. The water will help to keep the pasta moist.
Cover with tinfoil. The tinfoil is key to preventing the top of the taco casserole from burning while in the oven.
PRO TIP: To prevent cheese from sticking to the tinfoil, spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray and place that side down.
Bake your covered casserole for 30 minutes. Serve with taco sauce and your favorite taco topping(s).
Kid Friendly Ground Beef Recipes
More Dinner Recipes
- Crockpot Irish Beef Stew
- Buffalo Chicken Breast
- No-Boil Lasagna
- Gluten-Free Baked Ziti with Sausage
- Kid-Friendly Meatloaf
- Easy Swedish Meatballs (Crockpot)
- Ground Chicken Pasta
CKC Features both Gluten-Free Guidance and Kids Cooking Instructions: If you’re new to eating gluten-free we understand it’s overwhelming trying to figure out which foods may contain gluten and which ones don’t. All of our gluten-free recipes marked with this symbol ✅ represent foods that need to be checked for gluten or cross-contamination.
The ⭐️ symbol in the recipe below denotes the steps in which kid cooks may need a helper (depending on age). If there is no ⭐️ symbol, that step (or recipe) doesn’t require a helper.
Taco Pasta Bake
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 pound lean ground beef ✅
- 16 ounces gluten-free rigatoni
- 16 ounce can refried beans ✅
- 15 ounce jar salsa ✅
- 1 packet package taco seasoning ✅
- 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend, divided ✅
- 1/4 cup taco sauce ✅
- Preheat the oven. Preheat your oven to 350°.
- ⭐️Cook the onions and meat. In a large skillet, add a drizzle of olive oil then saute the onions until they are translucent (about 3-4 minutes). Add the beef and cook until no longer pink. Drain.1 tablespoon Olive Oil, 1 medium onion, diced, 1 pound lean ground beef
- ⭐️Prepare the rigatoni. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook rigatoni per box instructions (about 10 minutes). Drain.16 ounces gluten-free rigatoni
- ⭐️Add the other ingredients. To the ground beef mixture, add the salsa, refried beans, and taco seasoning. Mix well.16 ounce can refried beans, 15 ounce jar salsa, 1 packet package taco seasoning
- Combine pasta and meat mixture. In a large bowl, combine rigatoni, meat mixture, and 1/2 of the cheese. Mix well.2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend, divided
- Prepare the casserole. To a 9 x 13-inch baking pan, add the pasta mixture. Top with the rest of the cheese. Cover with tinfoil. To prevent cheese from sticking to the tinfoil, spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray and place that side down.2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend, divided
- ⭐️Bake. Bake covered casserole for 30 minutes. Serve with taco sauce, diced tomatoes, or your favorite taco toppings.1/4 cup taco sauce