Mexican Stuffed Shells Recipe 2023



  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 8 oz jumbo pasta shells
  • 10 oz enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded


  1. Preheat and Boil:
    • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175°C). Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the jumbo pasta shells according to package directions for al dente. Once cooked, rinse the shells and set aside.
  2. Prepare Meat Mixture:
    • In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef and diced yellow onion until the beef is thoroughly cooked. Drain excess grease from the pan. Stir in the taco seasoning and cook for an additional minute. Add the cream cheese, stirring until melted and well combined. Set aside.
  3. Combine Sauce:
    • In a small bowl, mix the enchilada sauce and salsa together.
  4. Assemble Stuffed Shells:
    • Pour about half of the enchilada sauce-salsa mixture into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan, spreading it evenly. Fill each jumbo shell with a heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture and place them in the pan with the sauce.
  5. Layer and Bake:
    • Repeat the process until all the shells are filled or the meat mixture is used up. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce-salsa mixture over the top of the shells. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.
  6. Bake:
    • Bake the stuffed shells in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  7. Cheese Topping:
    • Remove the foil and sprinkle the shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheese over the top of the shells.
  8. Final Bake:
    • Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  9. Serve:
    • Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh cilantro, diced tomatoes, or sliced green onions if desired.
  10. Enjoy:
    • Serve these delicious Mexican Stuffed Shells with your favorite toppings and sides. Enjoy your flavorful and cheesy dish!

Feel free to customize with additional toppings like sour cream, guacamole, or chopped fresh cilantro for an extra burst of flavor.

Here are some helpful tips to make your Mexican Stuffed Shells even more delightful :

  1. Fresh Ingredients:
    • Use fresh and high-quality ingredients for the best flavor. Fresh ground beef, vibrant onions, and flavorful salsa can make a significant difference.
  2. Taco Seasoning Variation:
    • Experiment with different taco seasoning blends or create your own for a personalized touch. Adjust the spice level to suit your taste.
  3. Add Vegetables:
    • Sneak in some diced bell peppers, corn, or black beans into the meat mixture for added texture and nutritional value.
  4. Cheese Choices:
    • Play around with cheese varieties. Consider using a Mexican cheese blend or a pepper jack cheese for an extra kick of flavor.
  5. Fresh Herbs:
    • Garnish with fresh cilantro or chopped green onions just before serving. The freshness will brighten up the dish.
  6. Spicy Kick:
    • If you love spice, add a diced jalapeño or a pinch of red pepper flakes to the meat mixture for an extra kick.
  7. Homemade Enchilada Sauce:
    • If time allows, try making your enchilada sauce from scratch. It can bring a richer and more authentic flavor to the dish.
  8. Layer with Refried Beans:
    • Spread a layer of refried beans on the bottom of the baking dish before adding the stuffed shells for an additional layer of flavor and creaminess.
  9. Individual Servings:
    • Consider making mini stuffed shells for individual servings. It can be a fun and convenient way to serve the dish, especially for parties or gatherings.
  10. Toppings Galore:
    • Set up a topping station with options like sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sliced jalapeños. This way, everyone can customize their stuffed shells.
  11. Make-Ahead Convenience:
    • Assemble the stuffed shells a day ahead and refrigerate. This allows the flavors to meld, and you can simply pop them in the oven when ready to bake.
  12. Serve with a Side Salad:
    • Accompany the Mexican Stuffed Shells with a fresh side salad for a balanced meal. A simple avocado salad or a crisp green salad complements the richness of the dish.
  13. Foil Tenting:
    • Before adding the cheese topping, tent the dish with foil to prevent the cheese from sticking. This helps create a gooey and perfectly melted cheese layer.
  14. Experiment with Salsa:
    • Choose different types of salsa to vary the flavor profile. Whether it’s a smoky chipotle salsa or a fruity mango salsa, it can add a unique twist.

Enjoy these tips as you make your Mexican Stuffed Shells, and feel free to tailor the recipe to your taste preferences!

Here are some popular questions and their answers related to the Mexican Stuffed Shells recipe:

  1. Can I use ground turkey instead of ground beef?
    • Yes, ground turkey can be a lean and tasty alternative. Just be sure to season it well for flavor.
  2. How do I prevent the shells from sticking together while boiling?
    • Add a bit of oil to the boiling water and stir occasionally to prevent the pasta shells from sticking together.
  3. Can I use different types of cheese for the topping?
    • Absolutely! Experiment with your favorite cheeses. Pepper jack, Mexican blend, or even crumbled queso fresco can add unique flavors.
  4. Is it possible to make this recipe ahead of time?
    • Yes, you can assemble the stuffed shells ahead of time and refrigerate. Bake when you’re ready to serve.
  5. What can I use if I don’t have taco seasoning?
    • You can make your own by combining chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
  6. How can I make it spicier?
    • Increase the amount of taco seasoning, add diced jalapeños to the meat mixture, or use a spicier salsa.
  7. Can I freeze Mexican Stuffed Shells?
    • Yes, you can freeze the assembled but unbaked stuffed shells. Thaw before baking.
  8. What sides go well with this dish?
    • Serve with sides like Spanish rice, black beans, or a simple avocado salad for a complete meal.
  9. Can I make it vegetarian?
    • Absolutely! Substitute the ground beef with plant-based alternatives or use a mix of beans and vegetables.
  10. What size shells should I use?
    • Use jumbo pasta shells, which are large enough to hold a generous amount of filling.
  11. Can I use a different type of pasta?
    • While the recipe calls for jumbo shells, you can experiment with other pasta shapes like manicotti or large conchiglie.
  12. How long should I bake it if I’m making a half batch?
    • Adjust the baking time if making a smaller batch. Keep an eye on it, and remove from the oven when the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  13. Can I add vegetables to the filling?
    • Yes, diced bell peppers, corn, or black beans can be added to the meat mixture for extra flavor and nutrition.
  14. What’s the best way to reheat leftovers?
    • Reheat in the oven at a low temperature to maintain the crispiness of the shells. Cover with foil to prevent drying.
  15. Can I use homemade salsa?
    • Absolutely! Homemade salsa can add a fresh and personalized touch to the dish.

Feel free to use these questions and answers to enhance your cooking experience with the Mexican Stuffed Shells recipe!

Achieving the perfect Mexican Stuffed Shells involves attention to detail and a few secrets to enhance flavors. Here are some tips for perfection:

  1. Bold Seasoning:
    • Season the meat mixture generously. The combination of taco seasoning and additional spices should be robust to ensure a flavorful filling.
  2. Proper Boiling of Shells:
    • Boil the pasta shells just until al dente. Overcooked shells can become mushy and difficult to stuff.
  3. Mix Cream Cheese Thoroughly:
    • Ensure the cream cheese is well incorporated into the meat mixture. This creates a creamy and rich filling for the shells.
  4. Balance the Cheese Topping:
    • Create a perfect blend of cheeses for the topping. Combine cheddar for sharpness and mozzarella for meltability. Adjust ratios based on personal preference.
  5. Homemade Enchilada Sauce:
    • If time allows, consider making your enchilada sauce from scratch. It can add a depth of flavor that enhances the overall dish.
  6. Vegetable Additions:
    • Introduce diced vegetables like bell peppers, corn, or black beans to the meat mixture for added texture and nutritional value.
  7. Salsa Selection:
    • Choose a salsa with a balance of flavors. Whether it’s a mild, medium, or hot salsa, the right choice can impact the overall taste of the dish.
  8. Layer of Refried Beans:
    • Spread a thin layer of refried beans at the bottom of the baking dish before placing the stuffed shells. This adds creaminess and complements the other flavors.
  9. Tent Foil to Preserve Cheese Texture:
    • When baking, tent the dish with foil before adding the cheese topping. This prevents the cheese from sticking and helps achieve a gooey, perfectly melted texture.
  10. Fresh Herbs for Garnish:
    • Garnish with fresh herbs like cilantro or green onions just before serving. The freshness adds a burst of flavor and visual appeal.
  11. Topping Station:
    • Set up a topping station with options like sour cream, guacamole, and extra salsa. This allows everyone to customize their serving.
  12. Individual Servings:
    • Consider making mini stuffed shells for individual servings. It can be a fun and appealing way to present the dish.
  13. Quality Ingredients:
    • Use fresh, high-quality ingredients for the best results. Fresh vegetables, good-quality ground beef, and authentic salsa contribute to the overall excellence.
  14. Experiment with Cheese:
    • Try different cheese combinations or incorporate a Mexican cheese blend for added authenticity.
  15. Serve with a Fresh Side:
    • Pair the Mexican Stuffed Shells with a crisp side salad or a light avocado salsa for a well-rounded meal.

By incorporating these secrets, you’ll be on your way to achieving the perfect Mexican Stuffed Shells with an array of flavors and textures. Enjoy your delicious meal!

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