This Cheesy Taco Pasta Recipe is going to be a new kid-favorite! 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 and dinner is served!
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. I decided it was time to change up our dinner menu. So, I created this delicious Cheesy Taco Pasta Recipe.
This taco pasta recipe is definitely a keeper. Everyone in my family loves it. Plus, I 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.
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 Cheesy Taco Pasta to that list!
HOW TO MAKE CHEESY TACO PASTA:
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 cooking the pasta per box instructions (about 10 minutes). Drain using a strainer and sit 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 prevent 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
If you enjoyed the recipe make sure to leave a comment and a star rating below! Then follow me on social media and tag #createkidsclub if you make the recipe. I love seeing what you come up with!
- large skillet
- measuring spoons
- baking pan
- medium-sized pot
- can opener
- tin foil
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 16 ounces rigatoni
- 16 ounce can refried beans
- 15 ounce jar salsa I used corn and black bean
- 1 packet package taco seasoning
- 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend, divided
- 1/4 cup taco sauce optional for serving
- 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.
- Prepare the rigatoni. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook rigatoni per box instructions (about 10 minutes). Drain.
- Add the other ingredients. To the ground beef mixture, add the salsa, refried beans, and taco seasoning. Mix well.
- Combine pasta and meat mixture. In a large bowl, combine rigatoni, meat mixture, and 1/2 of the cheese. Mix well.
- 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.
- Bake. Bake covered casserole for 30 minutes. Serve with taco sauce, diced tomatoes, or your favorite taco toppings.