This creamy taco pasta skillet is the perfect busy night dinner to make for the kids. In the 20 minutes it takes for the water to boil and the pasta to cook, you can have the creamy taco sauce with lightened ground turkey ready for tossing with the firm elbow noodles.
My husband adores Hamburger Helper, it's one of those childhood classics that he equates with comfort food.
Me? I'm not such a fan. I vastly prefer this homemade version of turkey taco pasta because the noodles are plumper and firmer than the boxed mix.
And, I swear it doesn't take any more time than that packaged stuff!
My kids always cheer when this recipe is on the dinner menu and I love that it can be made in just 25 minutes or less.
I love how simple the ingredients are for this taco pasta skillet, they're so easy to keep on hand for in a pinch:
- Ground turkey: You could substitute ground beef, ground chicken, or ground pork if you prefer.
- Elbow shaped pasta
- Taco seasoning: You can use whatever brand you prefer or a homemade mix.
- Rotel canned tomatoes with diced chiles
- Light sour cream
- Cream cheese
- Minced garlic
- Green onions for serving *optional
Cook the Pasta
The first step is to boil the water in a large pasta pot.
While the water is coming to a boil, start the pasta sauce by browning the ground turkey.
But, keep an eye on the pasta pot. Add the noodles when the water is ready and cook them for 1 minute less than the shortest time on the box to keep them firm.
Cook the Ground Turkey
Cook the ground turkey over Medium-High heat, crumbling it up as it cooks.
Turkey tends to be very soft until it has browned a bit, it will get easier to break apart with a spoon as it firms up.
Drain the liquid fat from the skillet and add the chopped onions and minced garlic. Stir to combine and heat until the onions have started to soften.
Add the taco seasoning and stir. Cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
Add the Rotel tomatoes WITH their juices, stir to combine.
Assemble the Skillet Dinner
Two minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, drain off ½ cup of the boiling pasta water and add it to the skillet. Stir it into the turkey - tomato mixture.
Add the sour cream and cream cheese to the skillet, stir it in as it melts.
Drain the pasta when it is finished boiling and add it to the finished taco pasta sauce, toss to coat in the sauce and serve.
Hint: If the noodles are finished before the turkey sauce is, just reserve the pasta water in your measuring cup to the side and drain the pasta. Let it sit in the strainer in your sink until you're ready to toss it with the finished sauce.
This recipe is best served immediately. The longer it sits, the more liquid will be absorbed by the noodles and the dryer the mixture will become.
However, you can store leftovers overnight in the fridge, stored in an airtight container.
To reheat: Simply sprinkle a little water or chicken stock over the pasta before heating up in the microwave. This will help restore some of the moisture to the sauce as it reheats.
Creamy Taco Pasta Skillet
- 1 lb. elbow noodles
- 1¼ lbs. ground turkey
- ½ cup reserved pasta boiling water
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 4 tablespoons taco seasoning
- 1 (10 oz) can Rotel tomatoes
- 4 oz. (½ a brick) cream cheese
- ½ cup light sour cream
- green onions for garnish
- Place a large pot of salted water over HIGH heat and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions using the 1 minute less than the lowest time on the box. This prevents the noodles from becoming overly mushy as they absorb the liquid from the sauce.
- Two minutes before the pasta is finished cook, use a measuring cup to reserve ½ cup of the boiling liquid and set aside.
- Meanwhile in a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground turkey until it is no longer pink. Crumble it as it cooks with a spoon or meat chopper. Drain the fat off and return the skillet to the stovetop.
- Turn the heat down a bit and add the chopped onion and garlic. Sauté until fragrant and onions are just softened.
- Add the taco seasoning, stir to combine and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the can of Rotel tomatoes with their juices and the reserved pasta water, scrape the pan to incorporate any seasonings stuck to the bottom.
- Add the cream cheese and sour cream, stir to melt and combine with the turkey mixture.
- Add the reserved noodles to the pan and toss to coat.
- Garnish with chopped green onions or shredded cheese and serve immediately. The mixture will thicken as it sits as the pasta absorbs the sauce.
Reheating Tips:The pasta will appear to dry out in the fridge overnight as it absorbs all the sauce. Sprinkle a tablespoon of water or chicken stock over the leftovers before heating in the microwave to help restore some moisture to the sauce. Stir before serving to combine.
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