This creamy taco pasta is like Taco Hamburger Helper or Mexican mac and cheese, but without all the processed ingredients. The noodle cooking liquid forms the basis for the sauce, so it's a one-pot dish and no cream cheese or heavy cream is necessary to ensure a super creamy sauce. This recipe uses beef, but ground turkey would be great too! The veggies are also totally customizable--if you don't like the jalapeños in this recipe, swap them out for bell peppers or your favorite alternative. It's the perfect kid-friendly weeknight meal for the whole family.
Here's what you need.
- Pasta. We tend to use whatever we have on hand, but any short pasta will work--macaroni, penne, bowtie, and rotini are good examples.
- Ground beef. We use 93% lean, grass fed ground beef, but use whatever you prefer. Just keep in mind that the beef cooks in the same pot as the pasta, so you may not want to use beef with a super high fat content. This recipe would also be great with ground turkey!
- Cheddar cheese. We use sharp cheddar cheese. I LOVE Kirkland Sharp Cheddar Cheese from Costco--it's got a great bite at a great price. Any old sharp cheddar will work, though. I just recommend that you grate it yourself--the pre-grated stuff doesn't melt as well and leaves you with a less creamy sauce.
- Jalapeño. We use fresh jalapeño. If you don't like spicy food, feel free to swap out the jalapeño for a bell pepper.
- Sweet onion
- Canned diced tomatoes. We tend to use whatever type of diced tomatoes we have on hand. Regular, fire-roasted, and diced tomatoes with chiles (Rotel) all work well.
- Beef broth. Chicken broth would work well too.
- Milk. Use whatever milk you usually drink. I've tested this recipe with 2% and almond milk, and both work well.
- Pantry ingredients/spices: garlic, oil, ground cayenne, cumin, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder mustard powder, chili powder, salt, and black pepper
- Dutch oven or large pot
Here's how you make it.
This taco pasta is so easy and takes less than half an hour.
First, add oil to a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, add onions, jalapeños, and carrots. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the onions and the jalapeños begin to soften. Then add the garlic, and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn.
Next, add the ground beef to the pot and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and no longer pink.
Add canned diced tomatoes (undrained!), pasta, beef broth, milk, and spices. Allow the liquid to come to a boil and cook until the pasta is al dente (or cooked to your preference), about 10-15 minutes.
Then add the cheese, stir until it's melted, and enjoy! If your sauce gets too thick, add more broth or milk. If it's too thin, let it simmer slightly longer.
Suggested toppings for this pasta:
I love putting fresh toppings on my pasta, and this one is no exception. It's great with:
- Sliced avocado
- Fresh lime juice
- A dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt
- Pickled jalapeños
- Fresh chopped cilantro
Creamy Taco Pasta Recipe: FAQs
No! Ground chicken or turkey would work perfectly too. Just follow the same instructions but substitute your desired meat for the ground beef and adjust the cooking time as needed.
I don't like to use store-bought taco seasoning, mainly because I don't usually have it on hand and I'd rather make my own from spices already in my spice cabinet. For this taco pasta, I use a combination of ground cayenne, cumin, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, mustard powder, salt, and black pepper.
No! The noodles cook in broth and milk, which forms the basis for the sauce. The starch from the noodles thickens up the sauce, so no cream cheese or heavy cream is necessary to ensure that this pasta will be super creamy. The cheddar finishes it off and makes it creamy AND cheesy.