Cheesy Taco Mac

Cheesy Taco Mac
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Necessity is the mother of invention and that is definitely the case with this delicious recipe for cheesy taco mac! I was visiting my daughter, Terri, and I saw her staring at her pantry in a huff. She said, “Mom, can you put your thinking apron on and help me figure out what to cook for supper, please?” Since she had been staring at the contents of her pantry for at least 5 minutes I knew there was a problem.

It was time to make a run to the grocery store but that wasn’t the day. So there we were staring at her dwindling pantry like it was an Olympic event. At the back corner, peaking around a can of chili or something of the sort, was a box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese that she had forgotten about. Now we had a side but what about the main dish?

Then it hit me. Why can’t it BE the main dish? We tossed the idea back and forth and before long we were pulling out ingredients that we knew would be great together. Why not throw them in with the shells and cheese we all love anyway? We knew it was going to be oh my gravy good!

Cheesy taco mac has a blend of our favorite Southwest ingredients mixed with a popular boxed side, Velveeta Shells and Cheese. 5 simple ingredients made a favorite family side into an incredible main dish. Let me show you how we made it.

Magic in the Imagination

I love making dishes from scratch. Meals that used to consist of just prepackaged foods was basically all I knew how to cook. Since I had to have a crash course in cooking anyway, I figured I would go all out and see how it was made. Been doing it ever since. BUT that doesn’t mean I make a hard-fast rule never to grab a box or package for that special yen when it arises.

I am glad my daughter had that little box tucked away because now I make this for my own household, as well. It is so delicious and simple.

Let’s start with the prep. Either chop or shred a small onion. It doesn’t have to be very big this time. We want the flavor, not the bulk.

From there we need to start the taco meat. Brown about a pound of hamburger meat in a skillet and drain the fat. Mix in a package of taco seasoning or you can add 3 tablespoons of your bulk taco seasoning. You can find my recipe for taco seasoning here.

Cook the pasta from a box of shells and cheese dinner according to the directions on the box and drain. We used Velveeta Shells and Cheese but you can use any brand your family enjoys. Return the cooked pasta to the pan and add the cheese sauce from the box, a half cup of salsa, the chopped onion, and a can of ranch style beans (juice and all).

shell pasta with salsa, ranch style beans and cheese sauce

Toss in the taco meat and blend it all together. The heat from the pasta and taco meat warms the ranch style beans just right.

taco meat with shredded onion and cheese sauce

I told you it was simple. The seasonings from the taco meat along with the sauce from the ranch style beans blends in with the creamy cheese sauce for a zesty nacho cheese. You can use any strength salsa here. We used a medium blend ourselves since Terri has a toddler who likes the zest without the ouch. My guys here at the house prefer the hotter variety. You just need to adjust it to your family’s tastes.

I hope you like this little twist of flavors we concocted as it is now a staple main dish in both our houses. Check out more of my recipes and see what kind of sparks it gives to your own imagination. Enjoy!

taco pasta on a white plate
taco pasta on a white plate

Cheesy Taco Mac

Cheesy taco mac is proof that just because it is a convenience food doesn't mean we can't jazz it up to be amazing. Shells and cheese box dinner + imagination = oh my gravy good!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 4
Calories 300 kcal


  • 1 box shells and cheese dinner
  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 small onion chopped or shredded
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 1 can ranch style beans
  • ½ cup salsa


Prepare Taco Meat:

  • Brown one pound of hamburger meat in a skillet. Drain excess fat.
  • Blend in the package of taco seasoning (or 3 tablespoons of bulk taco seasoning) with the cooked meat. Set aside.
    hamburger meat cooking with a blue spatula

Pasta Preparation:

  • Chop a small onion.
  • Cook the pasta from a box of shells (or macaroni) and cheese dinner as instructed on the box. Drain.
  • Add the cheese sauce from the box, taco meat, chopped onion, ½ cup of salsa, and a can of ranch style beans (undrained) to the pasta.
    shell pasta with salsa, ranch style beans and cheese sauce
  • Mix all ingredients together and serve hot. Enjoy!
Keyword easy recipes, fast dinners, macaroni and cheese, mexican macaroni and cheese, shells and cheese recipes, taco mac and cheese, taco pasta

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