I don’t know about you but with the craziness of new spring soccer schedules (three separate teams this year + one kid opting to wrestle instead of soccer), trying to get a meal ready at the right time in between running kids to practices and Cub Scouts and whatever else the evening holds (not including just keeping the house together, homework done, and piano practiced) is a little chaotic.

Enter the 30-minute skillet meal. I have professed my love for one-pot/one-skillet meals over the years. They are my lifesaver. Fast, easy, and healthy, they often prove to be the perfect solution to weeknight dinner craziness.

Today’s version – a loaded skillet full of saucy, tender pasta shells and warm, taco-style flavors – is fantastic. Sure, it may look like slop on the plate but in my family, at least, the ravenous kids (and let’s be honest, me, too) don’t care a bit how it looks, especially when the whole concoction is smothered in cheese, sour cream, salsa and olives. Seconds, please.

Skillet Taco Pasta Shells

I’ve made this a couple of times and the last go-round, I made it in my only available 30-minute window around 4:45 knowing we wouldn’t be eating until probably 6:30. After it was finished cooking, complete with a healthy smattering of cheese, I covered the whole skillet in greased foil, popped it in a warm oven (about 170 degrees) and we devoured it a couple hours later.

Granted, the pasta wasn’t quite as saucy as if we had eaten it right away but no one was complaining, that’s for sure. And it meant we were able to eat a hearty, delicious meal as a family. If only it was that simple and smooth and stress-free every night! Hey, I’ll take it when I can get it.

Skillet Taco Pasta Shells

What To ServeGreen salad (here’s a fabulous recipe or else a thrown-together one works great, too)
Steamed or roasted broccoli or skillet green beans
Fresh, seasonal fruit (this honey lime fruit salad is an easy, quick option)

One Year Ago: Chicken Cordon Bleu Lasagna
Two Years Ago: Thai-Style Chicken and Quinoa Salad
Three Years Ago: Creamy Fettuccine with Ham and Peas

Skillet Taco Pasta Shells

Yield: Serves 6


  • 1 pound ground turkey or beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder or 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup salsa verde (green salsa or green enchilada sauce)
  • 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 cups medium pasta shells (like these)
  • 1 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Fresh cilantro for sprinkling
  • Sour cream, olives and salsa for serving (optional)


  1. In a large, 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the ground turkey or beef, salt, pepper, onion (or onion powder), and garlic (or garlic powder), stirring every once in a while to break the meat into small pieces. Once the meat is cooked through, drain any excess grease and scrape the meat mixture to a paper towel-lined plate.
  2. To the skillet add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa verde, pinto beans, chili powder, oregano, pasta shells, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar.
  3. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring often to make sure the pasta isn't sticking, until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15-20 minutes.
  4. Stir in the cooked ground meat and top with the shredded cheese. Cover the skillet for 1-2 minutes to let the cheese melt. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro. The sauce will thicken as it rests.
  5. Serve with sour cream, olives, and salsa, if desired.

Recipe Source: sent to me by my cousin-in-law, Julianne, who made the recipe and raved, I adapted it from the original source here

54 Responses to Skillet Taco Pasta Shells {30-Minute Meal}

  1. Kelli says:

    Oh nevermind, I just read the same question in the comments, should have been more patient in reading. Thanks!

  2. Kelli says:

    This may be a dumb question, since it’s already a quick meal, but there’s only 2 of us eating here and I hate having a half a can of tomatoes and beans and sauce in the fridge, do you think this would freeze very well so I can make the whole recipe and then pull it out and warm it up a different night?

  3. Stacy says:

    Made this tonight! Easy and delicious. Thank you!

  4. Michelle says:

    I’m making this for dinner again tonight. Quick question though (which I know you won’t see till later, but that’s okay)- do you drain the can of diced tomatoes? Thanks!

  5. Megan says:

    Hi Mel,
    My family LOVES this recipe!! We eat it so often. I was curious if you have tried freezing it, or if you think I could. And if so, can I have steps as to how should I do that? 🙂 I would love to use this as a meal to give to other families after babies arrive or when someone could use an extra meal in the freezer for their family:) Let me know your thoughts on freezing it. Thanks SO much.

    • Mel says:

      I haven’t frozen this Megan so I’m not sure what to suggest. I think you could probably undercook the noodles just slightly and then pop it into an aluminum/disposable dish and cover and freeze. It might reheat well baked on about 325 or 350 for an hour or so (from frozen).

  6. Amanda Z says:

    Yay for skillet meals!! A quick meal that was delicious. Hubby and I loved it, I couldn’t help but crunch some tortilla chips on the top too.. awesome!

  7. Michelle says:

    Mel, I’m eating this for dinner as I type, and it’s fantastic!! 🙂 Thank you! It is absolutely perfect. Mine took 35 minutes to make, which is pretty darn close to 30! I will surely make it again, just as it’s written.

    (My only question is if you meant to write sauce instead of pasta in the last sentence- The pasta will thicken as it rests.)

  8. Kimberly Monaghan says:

    Just made this on Friday night and it was a HUGE hit with the family. I doubled the recipe to cover my family plus have delicious leftovers for lunch!! Thanks so much for adding a second new dish to our family rotation. Now I am off to look for number three!

  9. Amanda C says:

    This was fantastic–we loved it and it will be a regular meal around here!

  10. JennyP says:

    Huge hit and leftovers were awesome as well! I used black beans instead of pinto but otherwise made no changes. I did not expect the depth of flavors in this dish, and they definitely improved as it sat. Hubby and I both went for seconds and thirds! Loved it with a dollop of sour cream on top…yum!

  11. Candice says:

    Made this last night and took your cue and stuck it in 170 degree oven until at least 60% of my family was home at once to eat together (that’s usually the best we get with our 4 teenagers on a weeknight)! It was delicious and easy and we loved putting sour cream on our pasta. YUM! Some of the pickier ones didn’t like the beans, but they don’t like beans in anything so that’s not saying much. I guess I could always leave them out, but I don’t want to because I like beans! Thanks for a great recipe!

  12. Brett says:

    This was AMAZING.

    My only problem is that I kept on having to add chicken broth during the cooking phase. I followed the recipe exactly (even measured the pasta shells), and after the 15 minutes of cooking, I had doubled the amount of broth needed. Then once I re-added the meat, I added another cup of broth. Not really a problem, but I’m not quite sure what I was doing wrong. In the end, it was very thick and creamy regardless.

  13. Tara says:

    Another big hit at our house! Made the recipe as is and it helped clean out my fridge and pantry on a night I wasn’t feeling up to making a huge fuss!

  14. Beth W. says:

    Even the Non-Eater eats this! I do not care for leftovers, but this was even delicious the next day. Thanks for sharing another great meal. My kids love Hamburger Helper, but I don’t buy it anymore. I work hard on meals and they always seem to compliment the nasty HH stuff more than my homemade. Well, this was way better than HH, but still the skillet meal that they enjoy.

    I made this into a freezer meal. I used hamburger as I am not a fan of turkey (nasty bird). Fried of the burger with the seasonings and placed it in a sandwich baggie. Put some cheese in a baggie as well. Placed all other ingredients in a freezer bag and froze it sitting upright, then placed the extra bags into the frozen liquids. Easy peasy. Excellent meal.

  15. Lea says:

    Made this tonight and it got 4 stars from 3 of us and the picky one ate parts of it! That’s as good as it gets around here. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Josie says:

    This was delicious, I love your recipes Mel! Keep em coming 🙂

  17. Christina says:

    I made this for dinner tonight and will definitely make it again. Quick, easy and tasty!

  18. Kim in MD says:

    I love one skillet meals! I have made every skillet meal you have posted, and they are all family favorites. I’m sure this one will be, too!

  19. Jen T says:

    Made this last night with black beans and we all loved it! So nice to add another quick yummy meal to the rotation. Thanks Mel!

  20. Anissa says:

    Made this tonight and it went over pretty well with the picky eater kids. “pretty well” is actually a compliment in this house. 🙂 My husband and I really liked it. SUPER easy and fast. Thanks!

  21. Sally says:

    This recipe saved me tonight! I love that it was all stuff I had on hand, though I did substitute some shredded chicken in the fridge for the ground meat. Your site is my go-to for new recipes and some tried and trues that have become part of my regular repertoire. THANK YOU, and keep it up!!!

  22. Jenn W says:

    Made it tonight for dinner because we had soccer practice, and I was surprised to see how many of the kids really enjoyed this. My husband went back three times to snitch a little more.

  23. This recipe would fly HIGH in my family. Taco flavoring is always popular. And yes always a challenge to get a tasty meal out when people are hungry and when the meal fixer is tires and/or busy.
    I don’t normally talk about ME, but please make note of the slight name change from Wild Goose Tea. New web design too—-whoopee and I am adding some new features.

  24. Lauren says:

    I love quick meals, and this looks like a wonderful recipe to try. Thanks so much for sharing!

  25. Teresa says:

    I love your skillet chili mac and this looks like another good skillet option. I wonder, though, why we have to remove the meat from the skillet. I know I don’t remove the meat with the chili mac. Maybe it would overcook in this recipe? Looks great, can’t wait to try it.

    • Mel says:

      Good question, Teresa. For some reason in this recipe when I made it the first time and left the meat in there, when eating, the ground turkey had an unpleasant boiled taste – kind of mushy. So I decided to remove it before continuing with the recipe.

  26. Mary says:

    I just made this for lunch and it was super good! I subbed black beans for pinto and threw in some frozen corn too. It kind of reminded me of a way better version of Taco Hamburger Helper. Delish!

  27. Amy C. says:

    Mel, we are in your shoes, except it’s baseball instead of soccer. I always try to have us something to eat here so that we’re not rushing into the fast food drive thru or even worse, the concession stand 🙂

  28. 30 minute meals are the best. Especially when they can be made in one skillet, and when they involve tacos! This pasta looks awesome, I don’t think it looks like slop at all! 🙂

  29. Susan says:

    This would not serve 6 at my house, I have three boys who like to eat! Have you ever tried doubling it?

    • Mel says:

      No, but that should work just fine as long as you have a large enough pot (I’d skip the skillet and use a large saucepan).

      • barb k says:

        Hi Susan! I have doubled many of Mel’s skillet recipes for hungry family with great success! Key factor is large skillet 🙂
        Thanks for another yummy dinner, Mel !!

  30. You put “30 minute meal” in the title and I’m definitely interested! This looks fantastic.

  31. Karen K says:

    I don’t see any option to “pin” your recipes. No “P” noticed anywhere..

    • Jana says:

      Karen, not to step in here, but if you hover over any of the photos you will see the “Pin It” up in the top left hand corner. Hope that helps.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Karen – I just double checked and the Pin It button (a light blueish circle) should be there when you hover over any of the images.

  32. Jenn A says:

    I’m pretty sure my family would gobble this too!

  33. Heather bell says:

    Well if Julianne loves it, it’s right on!

  34. Nicole says:

    Mel, I’m SO right there with you on the spring sports dinner scramble! I had such an easy night last night because we were done with all sports by 6:30 pm. That won’t happen again probably for another 3 months!!

  35. Jen T says:

    Sooo need this right now! I think spring is actually crazier than December. Too much going on. Thanks Mel!

  36. Jessica says:

    Could this be made with black beans instead of pinto beans?

  37. Sheila says:

    Sounds like a dream family meal. Taco, pizza, and the word healthy fits the bill. I often make pasta dishes the night before because we think they are even more delicious after marinating in the sauce for 24 hours. Thank you.

  38. I hear you on the running around and then trying to get dinner on the table! Challenging on so many nights. One pot meals are a life saver. I like the mix of taco and pasta that you used here. Sounds good.

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