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Basic Taco Pasta Casserole

Elevate Your Dinner Routine with Basic Taco Pasta Casserole

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Are you tired of the same old weeknight dinners and looking to spice things up? Look no further than the Basic Taco Pasta Casserole – a hearty and flavorful dish that combines the best of both worlds: tacos and pasta! This easy-to-make casserole is perfect for feeding a crowd or enjoying as a cozy family meal. With simple ingredients and minimal prep time, it’s a recipe that’s sure to become a staple in your kitchen. So let’s dive in and learn how to create this deliciously satisfying dish!

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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground meat (beef, chicken, and/or turkey) *See post for other ideas
  • 1 (16oz) box pasta shells
  • 1 (15.5oz) jar salsa
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning + 1 cup water or milk
  • Optional: Add 1/2 cup cream cheese, sour cream, or half and half for a creamier sauce

Instructions

Preparing the Ingredients

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C) and grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Cook the pasta shells according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Cooking the Ground Meat

  1. In a large skillet, cook the ground meat over medium heat until browned and cooked through, breaking it apart with a spoon as it cooks.
  2. Drain any excess fat from the skillet, then return the cooked meat to the pan.

Adding Flavor

  1. Add the taco seasoning to the cooked meat, along with 1 cup of water or milk, stirring until well combined.
  2. Allow the mixture to simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced and the sauce has thickened slightly.

Assembling the Casserole

  1. In the prepared baking dish, layer half of the cooked pasta shells on the bottom.
  2. Spoon half of the meat mixture over the pasta shells, spreading it out evenly.
  3. Pour half of the salsa over the meat layer, spreading it out evenly.
  4. Sprinkle half of the shredded cheese over the salsa layer.
  5. Repeat the layers with the remaining pasta shells, meat mixture, salsa, and shredded cheese.

Baking the Casserole

  1. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  2. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and the casserole is heated through.

Serving and Enjoying

  1. Once done, remove the casserole from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.
  2. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado, and a dollop of sour cream, if desired.
  3. Serve hot and enjoy the delicious flavors of Basic Taco Pasta Casserole!

Cook Notes and Variations

  • Customize the Protein: Feel free to use your favorite ground meat in this recipe, such as beef, chicken, turkey, or even plant-based alternatives like Beyond Meat or tofu crumbles.
  • Add Extra Veggies: Boost the nutritional value of the casserole by adding diced bell peppers, onions, corn, or black beans to the meat mixture.
  • Experiment with Cheese: Mix and match different types of cheese to suit your taste preferences, such as Monterey Jack, pepper jack, or Colby cheese.

Keto and Low-Carb Versions

Keto Version

  • Substitute the pasta shells with spiralized zucchini or shirataki noodles to reduce the carb content.
  • Use a homemade taco seasoning mix without added sugar or fillers to keep the carb count low.
  • Replace the salsa with diced tomatoes and green chilies for a lower-carb option.

Low-Carb Version

  • Choose low-carb pasta alternatives such as chickpea pasta, lentil pasta, or konjac noodles.
  • Opt for a low-carb salsa or tomato sauce with no added sugars.
  • Reduce the amount of cheese or use a low-fat cheese alternative to lower the overall carb count.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can I make this casserole ahead of time? A: Yes, you can assemble the casserole ahead of time and refrigerate it until ready to bake. Simply cover it tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking.

Q: Can I freeze leftover casserole? A: Absolutely! Allow the casserole to cool completely, then transfer it to an airtight container or freezer-safe bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake in a preheated oven until heated through.

Q: Can I add additional toppings to the casserole? A: Of course! Customize your casserole with your favorite taco toppings such as diced tomatoes, sliced black olives, jalapeno slices, or chopped green onions before serving.

Q: Can I use different types of pasta in this recipe? A: Yes, you can use any pasta shape you like in this recipe, such as penne, rotini, or farfalle. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time according to the package instructions for your chosen pasta.

healty meal, low carbs meals, keto meal

With its irresistible combination of taco flavors and pasta goodness, the Basic Taco Pasta Casserole is sure to become a new family favorite. Whether you’re looking for a quick and easy weeknight dinner or planning a casual gathering with friends, this versatile dish has you covered. Plus, with its customizable ingredients and simple preparation, it’s a recipe that’s as adaptable as it is delicious. So why wait? Gather your ingredients and get ready to enjoy a meal that’s guaranteed to satisfy your cravings and leave everyone asking for seconds!

Indulge in the comforting flavors of Basic Taco Pasta Casserole and treat your taste buds to a fiesta of deliciousness. With its hearty ingredients and zesty seasonings, it’s the perfect way to add a little excitement to your dinner routine. So go ahead, dig in, and savor every flavorful bite of this mouthwatering casserole creation. ¡Buen provecho!

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