Taco Stuffed Shells are jumbo pasta shells plump full of seasoned ground beef, onions, salsa, cheddar, and Monterey Jack Cheese. Then they are topped with another generous helping of cheese and baked to perfection.
HOW TO MAKE TACO STUFFED SHELLS
Start by bringing a large pot of water to boil. Cook the shells according to package directions and drain well. Meanwhile, brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it is about halfway through the browning process, add the onion and continue cooking until the beef is browned and the onions are soft. Then drain any excess grease from the skillet.
Now add the taco seasoning and water to the ground beef mixture and simmer for about 10 minutes. Then add the salsa and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Once cooled, stir in half of each cheese.
Then spoon the seasoned taco meat mixture into the shells and lay them in a single layer in a casserole dish. Top with the remaining shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, and minced jalapeno. Bake covered for about 20 minutes. Then uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes. For best results, serve promptly.
RECIPE NOTES AND HELPFUL TIPS
- For a little more kick, substitute minced serrano pepper for the jalapeno. Serrano peppers have a Scoville heat ranking between 5000 to 15000, while jalapenos have a Scoville heat ranking between 2000 to 5000.
- Any kind of tomato is great on top of these shells. I have used fire-roasted tomatoes, sliced grape tomatoes, and quartered cherry tomatoes with good success.
- Use my homemade taco seasoning with tons of flavor from chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, and red pepper flakes.
- For a change of pace, try ground turkey or ground pork.
- If desired, top with sour cream, green onions, black olives, black beans, Pico de Gallo, or guacamole.
- Wear gloves when mincing jalapenos or other hot peppers or at the very least, do not touch your face and thoroughly wash your hands after handling the peppers. To tame the heat, remove the veins and seeds with a spoon.
- Pro Tip – don’t risk dropping the ground beef in the sink to drain the fat. Simply tilt the pan and use a paper towel to absorb the grease.
- Add a few extra shells when boiling the pasta, as inevitably, some of them will tear.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave at reduced power.
- Freeze for up to 3 months in a sturdy container.
CAN TACO STUFFED SHELLS BE FROZEN?
Absolutely they can. I prefer to freeze it after it has been assembled and prior to baking. This way, the pasta shells maintain their texture and don’t become too dry from the double baking. So prepare the dish up to the point of baking. Then cover the casserole dish tightly with several layers of plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 months.
When ready to bake, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the casserole from the refrigerator 30-40 minutes prior to baking to come to room temperature. Then remove the plastic wrap and cover it with aluminum foil. Proceed with the baking directions as written.
To freeze after baking, cool the shells completely. Then cover the casserole dish tightly with several layers of plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for up to 2 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Cut two large slits in the plastic wrap and heat in the microwave at 50% power until heated through. The reduced power gives it time for the shells in the middle to heat all the way through before the shells on the outer edges of the casserole are overheated. Heat for about 4-6 minutes, depending on the microwave’s strength.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH TACO STUFFED SHELLS
- Homemade Lemonade
- Chips and salsa
- Avocado Dip
- Mexican street corn
- A small garden salad or Doritos Taco Salad
- Chicken Taco Soup
- Mexican Shrimp Cocktail (Cóctel de Camarónes)
- Raspberry or watermelon sorbet