A dish made for dinnertime, Tex Mex stuffed shells are filled to the brim with ground meat, tomatoes, salsa, corn, black beans, and ricotta.
A statement that won’t win me many friends: I don’t like Mexican food.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’ll eat an enchilada now and then. I’d count quesadillas as a win, but the way I eat them, basically as a glorified grilled cheese, doesn’t count.
When I break it down, I’m not sure what’s not to like. Beans are my primary protein source. I have no qualms about tortillas.
Guacamole is a gift from God, and mole sauce itself is heaven. But put it all together, and I’m like, eh, I’m good.
Now beverages on the other hand…hello margaritas!
What I do quite like is Italian food. A world without pasta is not a world for me. Could I marry the two and find a happy medium?
Much of what I cook is already an improvisation. Why not try?
I intended to make what started out as taco pasta, but I’ve been focused on cooking with what’s already in my kitchen these past few weeks.
So I grabbed a box of stuffed shells from the pantry, defrosted some ground turkey, and bought only a can of corn.
How did it go? I’d say it was a success. I ate tex mex stuffed shells for dinner, and in a serious meal-prep win, for lunch all week.
To say I was excited about my meal by the fourth and final day is not entirely accurate, but I also wasn’t dreading it. The leftovers kept well and kept me full.
Tex Mex Stuffed Shells Recipe Notes
1. Heads up on the envelope of taco seasoning. I wrote that in the recipe because that’s probably easiest for most people. But, if you use the rest of the spices – cumin, chili powder, and cayenne – you’re halfway there to making your own.
2. If you want to go further down the rabbit hole and make your own homemade chili powder, you can do that too.
3. The ingredients here make a lot! If you only want a half-portion, what are you supposed to do with those half-cans of beans, corn, and tomatoes? You could use them as toppings for a southwest-inspired salad. Or, dare I say it, repurpose them as a quesadilla filling.
Just don’t forget the cheese. Enjoy!
- 32 jumbo pasta shells
- 1 pound ground turkey or beef
- 1 envelope taco seasoning
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- ¾ cup salsa
- 1, 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1, 15-ounce can corn, drained
- 1, 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 2, 15-ounce cans tomato sauce
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
- Optional garnish: cilantro
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta shells according to the package directions. Drain and set aside, taking care to keep a little space between the shells so they don’t stick together. You can also drizzle a little olive oil over the shells to limit the sticking.
- Brown the ground meat in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain any excess liquid from the skillet once the meat is fully cooked.
- Sprinkle the taco seasoning, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper, if using, over the meat and stir to coat.
- Next stir in the salsa, diced tomatoes, corn, black beans, and ricotta cheese.
- Pour the tomato sauce into a 9 x 13 baking dish.
- Fill each cooked pasta shell with 2 heaping tablespoons of the tex mex mixture and tuck them into the baking dish over the tomato sauce.
- Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the foil, sprinkle the shells with the cheddar cheese, and bake for 15 minutes more.
- Sprinkle cilantro, if using, over the stuffed shells before serving.
You’re mixing the entire stuffed shells filling in a skillet, so make sure it is a large one. If you don’t have a large skillet, simply transfer the browned meat to a large bowl and go from there.
You can prep this dish ahead. Simply cook and stuff the shells and refrigerate overnight in an airtight container. Arrange the stuffed shells on the tomato sauce immediately before you put the baking dish in the oven.
This recipe is light on the tomato sauce. If you prefer saucy pasta, you may want to consider adding an extra can of sauce to the baking dish.
And speaking of baking dishes, it's a tight squeeze to fit 32 shells in one 9 x 13 dish. You may want to consider splitting them across baking dishes if possible.
If you want to make your own taco seasoning, this is how to do it:
Homemade Taco Seasoning
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Use one heaping tablespoon for this recipe.
Recipe based on Taco Pasta from The Cookies & Cups Cookbook by Shelly Jaronsky.