This Taco Pasta Bake, made with salsa, ground beef, corn, beans and cheese, is baked using a streamlined no-boil method that makes getting this dish on the table easier than ever!
No-Boil Taco Pasta Casserole
Give me all the hands-off streamlined dinners, because as much as I try to meal plan, prep, and organize myself to a less-hectic 5 p.m. routine, I inevitably find myself most nights of the week racing against the clock. Enter this easy-peasy One-Pot Taco Pasta, because who doesn't love tacos + pasta + cheese, right?
This baked taco pasta is a no-boil recipe, which skips the step of separately preparing the pasta and instead, everything is baked up together at once. That means hands-off cooking, fewer dishes, and a very hearty dinner everyone will love.
This version of baked pasta is a well-balanced meal (with starch, veggies, and protein!) that plays on the classic American taco vibe using store-bought salsa, ground beef, taco seasoning, beans, corn, and cheese.
So let's get to making it! The text below offers some tips for making it, or you can scroll down to the bottom for the complete recipe.
Here is a brief overview of the ingredients needed for this recipe. The full recipe with quantities is listed below this text in the recipe card. If substitutions are available for this recipe, they'll be listed here. If you don't see a substitution you are looking for, please leave a comment below.
- medium shells (it's fine to use other pasta shapes but the amount of liquid needed for this recipe might change)
- store-bought salsa (since we're all about simple here, use a classic chunky tomato salsa that has a good flavor... if you really insist, you can obviously use homemade too)
- ground beef (or use ground turkey or skip the meat and add in extra beans)
- olive oil
- coarse kosher salt
- tomato paste
- cream cheese (this gives the sauce a creamy feel and helps bring it together)
- taco seasoning
- black beans
- frozen corn kernels
- chicken broth (or water)
- shredded cheddar cheese (or any good melting cheese you like with tacos)
- cilantro (for serving)
How a No-Boil Baked Pasta Dish Works
Traditionally we've been told to always cook pasta in large amounts of salted water to ensure the best possible outcome. But long ago, I began cooking some of my pasta dishes in much less water, and often so little as not to need to even drain it. I find this beneficial because it skips a step in cooking, but also adds value in terms of flavor and viscosity to the sauce for the pasta.
This same thinking is used in the making of this no-boil pasta bake.
The ingredients in this taco pasta bake are added to a baking dish, covered tightly with foil, and bake for about about 45 minutes. The pasta absorbs the water and salsa sauce during this time, resulting in a perfectly cooked noodle and a delicious surrounding sauce.
And less hands-on cooking, which is crucial in the battle of the busy weeknights.
How to Add Just Enough Water
The only trick to making this no-boil baked pasta dish work is to add just enough water. You don't want to add too little and have your noodles not cook, and you don't want to add too much, because then the noodles will be overcooked.
The recipe calls for adding 3-4 cups of water to the baking dish. Start by adding the smaller amount and seeing if nearly all dried pasta is covered. If your pasta is not covered (which can happen with different brands of noodles or baking dishes) add in a bit more water until it is.
Serving this No-Boil Baked Ziti
Like all baked pasta dishes, it's a meal all in itself. But, it does need about 10-15 minutes to cool down slightly and absorb a bit more of the liquid before serving.
A touch of sliced cilantro is nice for a garnish, or some hot sauce or lime juice!
To store leftovers, let the baked pasta cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. It's best used within 1-2 days.
This dish could be frozen, but it will likely be pretty soft after it's reheated. To freeze, place completely chilled pasta in a freezer-safe container with a tight-fitting lid. It's best to use within 1-2 months after freezing.
To reheat, you can heat it in an oven-safe container in the oven or toaster oven. I love using Glass Pyrex Containers because they double as storage and baking dishes. Or, you can reheat briefly in the microwave until warmed through. It’s best to add a few tablespoons of water to the dish when reheating it.
To reheat from frozen it should be defrosted in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
More Pasta Recipes
Making the recipe? Be sure to leave a comment with a star review on your experience! Have a question? Leave a comment below and I'll get back to you as quickly as I can!Print
This Taco Pasta Bake, made with salsa, ground beef, corn, beans and cheese, is baked using a streamlined no-boil method that makes getting this dish on the table hands-off!
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 tablespoons cream cheese, cubed
- 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
- 1 (16-ounce) chunky tomato salsa
- 1 lb. medium shells
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels
- 3-4 cups water or chicken broth (see note)
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- Cilantro, sliced, for serving
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add beef and salt and cook until no pink remains, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and taco seasoning and cook for 2-4 minutes until the tomato paste turns a deep red. Shut off the heat and stir in the cream cheese until it fully melts.
- Place a 9x13 baking pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Add in the uncooked pasta, cooked ground beef mixture, salsa, black beans, corn, 3 cups water, and 1 cup of shredded cheddar to the baking pan and mix until well combined. Make sure most of the pasta is submerged. If not, add ½ cup more water at a time until it is. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 cup of cheddar.
- Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil, and transfer the rimmed baking sheet and baking pan to the oven.
- Bake for 45 minutes covered. Remove the foil and continue to cook for 5-10 more minutes until the middle of the pasta is bubbling and the cheese is melty.
- Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. The sauce will thicken up during this time period. Serve warm with cilantro.
Use a salsa that you enjoy the taste of since it’s a big part of flavoring this dish!
Baking this in a baking pan on top of a baking sheet is to prevent anything from bubbling over and scorching the bottom of your oven. While nothing ever bubbled over during the testing phase, it’s better to be safe than sorry with baked pasta dishes!
Depending on the type of pan you use, and the type of pasta, you may not need all 4 cups of added water/chicken broth. Start with 3 cups, and after everything is mixed together, see if all the pasta is submerged (a few pieces barely sticking out is ok). If needed, add more water to make sure the pasta is submerged, up to 4 cups total.
Keywords: Taco Pasta