Taco Stuffed Shells

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Taco stuffed shells with ground beef are bursting with ground beef, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, and gooey cheese. They’re baked to perfection, resulting in a delicious and kid-friendly dinner that will satisfy everyone’s taste buds!

Imagine the perfect combination of flavors that Mexican cuisine offers. Now, follow our simple step-by-step guide to create this mouthwatering and nutritious meal.

Once popped in the oven, these delightful shells will be ready to be devoured in under 40 minutes. Better yet, why not hand the recipe to your little ones and let them take charge of dinner? This easy-to-follow recipe will boost their confidence in the kitchen and make cooking an enjoyable experience for them night after night. So sit back, relax, and savor the flavors while your kids whip up this fantastic meal. 

a spoon holding a taco stuffed pasta shell after baking

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 6 ounces big pasta shells 24 shells
  • 10 ounces enchilada sauce
  • 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with chilies such as Rotel
  • 1 packet package taco seasoning
  • 1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend

HOW TO MAKE 

To make these Mexican shells with ground beef, start by preheating your oven to 375°. Meanwhile, prepare the ground beef by heating olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Sauté the diced onions until they turn translucent, which should take around 3 to 4 minutes. Then, add the lean ground beef to the skillet and cook it until it is no longer pink. Once cooked, drain the excess fat from the beef.

While the beef is cooking, take a medium-sized pot and bring water to a boil. Add the large pasta shells to the boiling water and cook them according to the instructions on the pasta box, typically around 10 minutes. Once the pasta shells are cooked, drain them and rinse them under cold water to cool them down.

Next, add the diced tomatoes with chilies and the taco seasoning to the skillet with the beef. Mix everything together thoroughly to ensure that the flavors are well combined.

Now it’s time to prepare the baking pan. Take a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and pour the enchilada sauce into it, spreading it evenly across the bottom.

To assemble the stuffed shells, take each cooked pasta shell and fill it with about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the beef mixture. Carefully place each filled shell into the baking pan, arranging them in three rows with approximately eight shells in each row.

With the shells assembled, it’s time to get them ready for baking. Sprinkle a generous amount of cheese over the stuffed shells, ensuring they are evenly covered. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the enchilada sauce is heated through.

Once the stuffed shells are baked to perfection, remove them from the oven and serve them hot. The flavorful combination of beef, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, and melted cheese will surely please everyone at the dinner table. Enjoy this delicious meal that strikes the perfect balance between simplicity and flavor!

Tips and Tricks

Here are some helpful tips and tricks to enhance your experience making Taco Stuffed Shells:

  1. Use lean ground beef: Opt for lean ground beef to reduce excess grease and make the dish healthier. It will still be flavorful and delicious.
  2. Customize the spice level: Adjust the amount of taco seasoning or add additional spices like chili powder or cayenne pepper to suit your taste preferences. If you prefer milder flavors, use less seasoning.
  3. Experiment with different cheeses: While the recipe suggests sprinkling cheese on top, feel free to get creative with the cheese selection. Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or a Mexican blend are great options. You can even mix different cheeses for added flavor.
  4. Add vegetables: Sneak in some extra veggies by incorporating diced bell peppers, corn kernels, or black beans into the meat mixture. It adds color, texture, and nutrients to the dish.
  5. Garnish with fresh toppings: Before serving, add a burst of freshness by topping the stuffed shells with chopped cilantro, diced avocado, or a squeeze of lime juice. It will enhance the overall flavor profile.
  6. Make it ahead: Prepare the stuffed shells in advance and refrigerate them until you’re ready to bake. This can be a time-saver for busy weeknights or when hosting guests. Just remember to adjust the baking time accordingly, as chilled shells may require a few extra minutes in the oven.
  7. Serve with sides: Accompany the Taco Stuffed Shells with traditional Mexican sides like guacamole, salsa, sour cream, or a crisp green salad. They add variety and complement the flavors of the dish.

FAQ

Can I substitute ground beef with another protein?

Absolutely! If you prefer a different protein, such as ground turkey, chicken, or even a plant-based alternative like textured vegetable protein (TVP) or lentils, you can easily swap it in for the ground beef in this recipe. Adjust the cooking time accordingly, as different proteins may require different cooking durations.

Are there any vegetarian or vegan alternatives for this recipe?

Yes, you can easily make vegetarian or vegan stuffed shells by replacing the ground beef with plant-based protein options like TVP, lentils, or crumbled tofu. For vegan cheese, choose a dairy-free alternative or make your own cashew cheese or nutritional yeast-based cheese sauce. Ensure that the enchilada sauce you use is also vegan-friendly or make a homemade version without animal products.

Can I make this recipe gluten-free?

Yes, you can make this recipe gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta shells. There are various gluten-free pasta options available, such as those made from corn, rice, quinoa, or a blend of alternative flours. Be sure to follow the cooking instructions on the package for the specific type of gluten-free pasta you choose.

Can I use a different type of sauce?

Certainly! While the recipe calls for enchilada sauce, you can experiment with different sauces to give the dish a unique twist. Salsa, marinara sauce, or even a creamy cheese sauce can work well as alternatives. Feel free to get creative and tailor the dish to your taste preferences.

taco stuffed shells in a white baking pan

Storage and Reheating Instructions

To store your Taco Stuffed Shells, allow them to cool completely before transferring them to an airtight container or covering the baking pan tightly with foil. Place them in the refrigerator, where they can be stored for up to 3-4 days.

Reheating

When you’re ready to enjoy the leftovers, you have a couple of options for reheating. If you prefer to use the oven, preheat it to 350°F (175°C), place the desired number of shells in an oven-safe dish, cover with foil to prevent drying out, and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until heated through.

For a quicker reheating method, you can use the microwave. Transfer a portion of the stuffed shells to a microwave-safe plate or container, cover with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap with a small vent, and heat on medium power in 1-minute intervals, stirring occasionally, until the shells are heated through. Keep in mind that the cooking time may vary depending on the size and quantity of the stuffed shells. It’s important to ensure they are heated thoroughly to an internal temperature of at least 165°F (74°C) before consuming.

Freezing Instructions

You can freeze the stuffed shells for future meals. Prepare the recipe as instructed, but do not bake them. Instead, place the stuffed shells in an airtight container or wrap them tightly with aluminum foil. Label and date the container, then store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, thaw the shells in the refrigerator overnight, then bake them according to the original instructions.

When you’re ready to enjoy them, thaw the shells in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat them in the oven or microwave, adjusting the cooking time accordingly to ensure they are heated through. Enjoy your Taco Stuffed Shells even after they’ve been stored and reheated!

More Dinner Recipes:

a spoon holding a taco stuffed pasta shell after baking

Taco Stuffed Shells

5 from 1 vote
Course Dinner
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Taco stuffed shells with ground beef are bursting with ground beef, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, and gooey cheese. They're baked to perfection, resulting in a delicious and kid-friendly dinner that will satisfy everyone's taste buds!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 6 ounces large pasta shells
  • 10 ounces enchilada sauce
  • 10 ounces diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven. Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Prepare ground beef. In a medium-sized skillet, heat olive oil and saute onions until translucent (about 3-4 minutes). Add ground beef, cook until no longer pink, then drain.
  • Prepare pasta shells. While the beef is cooking, in a medium-sized pot, heat water to boiling. Add pasta shells and cook per box instructions (about 10 minutes). Drain then run under cold water to cool.
  • Prepare meat mixture. To the cooked and drained beef, add the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning. Stir well.
  • Prepare the baking pan. To a 9 x 13-inch baking pan, add the enchilada sauce.
  • Assemble the stuffed shells. Add about 2-3 tablespoons to each cooked pasta shell and carefully place it into the pan forming 3 rows of about 8 shells in each row.
  • Prepare for baking. Sprinkle with cheese. Cook for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the enchilada sauce is heated through. Serve hot.

Equipment

Nutrition

Calories: 301kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 53mg | Sodium: 1010mg | Potassium: 449mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 973IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 139mg | Iron: 3mg
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