Dinner is a slam dunk when you cook up a colorful, veggie-loaded Mexican Pasta Bake, made extra flavorful with lots of chorizo and a creamy red sauce.
I have a weird thing about casseroles. Or, had a weird thing about casseroles. I think to myself, “Self, you don’t like casseroles.” And then I have a casserole, and it’s like, I LOVE casseroles why don’t I have more casseroles?? And then times passes, and soon I’m back to thinking, “I don’t like casseroles.”
In my own not-really-defensible defense, it goes back to my kidling years, when I didn’t like different foods touching each other on the plate. And a casserole is kind of the king of foods touching each other on the plate and getting all up in each other’s bi’ness.
So, I have to constantly remind myself, “Self, you love you some casseroles,” so that I don’t miss out on things like a flavor-loaded Mexican pasta bake. Because that would be a senseless foodie tragedy.
It’s a Mexican Pasta Bake!
This pasta bake is just a little twist on your everyday Italian-leaning pasta bakes. Lots of chorizo, some taco seasoning, loads of vegetables, and heaps of melty cheese. All the things that add tons of tasty goodness to a meal, but in a dish that doesn’t make a whole, ya know, hoopla out of making dinner.
Not that I don’t enjoy the occasional dinner hoopla. But sometimes you just wanna/gotta/hafta get the grub on the table so that everyone can get to stuffing their gobs, post haste. Amiright??
Tips for making Mexican Pasta Bake:
- Need a vegetarian version? No problem! Substitute the sausage with meatless crumbles or vegetarian chorizo. Black beans would be awesome, too, and are full of protein and fiber.
- For carnivores who want extra sausage flavor, split the amounts between chorizo and Italian sausage.
- Homemade spice blends are amahzing — so much fresher than what you can buy in a jar at the grocery. Here’s my go-to taco seasoning blend, from Alton Brown.
- The saucy goodness in this Mexican pasta bake comes from red enchilada sauce. I prefer a pepper-heavy sauce — some say that’s authentic enchilada sauce — but if you like the richness of tomato paste with your enchilada sauce, do check the ingredient labels.
- Makeaheadability (makin’ up words): this dish is sooo easy pull together for dinner if you chop all the veggies and grate the cheeses ahead of time, and store in the fridge. So easy, as in, I’m so-dog-tired-I-can-hardly-see-straight-but-I-can-still-do-this-pasta-bake easy. Yaas! I also have good luck with prepping the pasta ahead of time. Reserve about a 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water, and store both, separately, covered, in the fridge. Before assembling the Mexican pasta bake, drizzle some of the cooking water over the pasta until loosened, and you’re good to go.
- This recipe makes a nice hearty meal for two with leftovers. Add a little chicken broth, and you have Mexican pasta bake soup for a take-to-the-office lunch. Double da yums.
Delicious, cheesy, and saucy. Thank goodness I have casseroles like this one to remind my silly self that I love casseroles!
Mexican Pasta Bake
- olive oil
- 14 ounces dried pasta
- 8 ounces chorizo sausage about 2 links, casings removed
- 2 cups chopped vegetables bell peppers, corn, red onions
- 2 teaspoons taco seasoning
- 19 ounce can red enchilada sauce
- 1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
- 3 cups shredded cheese (a combo of Monterey Jack & white sharp cheddar is nice)
- chopped green onions for topping
- sliced black olives for topping
- 1 tablespoon minced cilantro for garnish
- 1/2 lime optional
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the inside of a 2 quart baking dish, or coat with nonstick spray.
- Prepare pasta according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, breaking up any large pieces as necessary.
- Add the vegetables and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the taco seasoning over the veggies and sausage and stir.
- Pour in the enchilada sauce and mix well. Heat through for several minutes. Stir in the sour cream and about 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese.
- Drain the pasta and pour half of it into the prepared baking dish. Spoon some of the sauce over the pasta, and sprinkle half of the cheese over it. Add the rest of the pasta, evening out across the dish. Pour the rest of the sauce over the pasta, and top with the remaining cheese, plus the green onions and black olives.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until sauce begins to bubble. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the cilantro over the top while the cheese is still melty. Squeeze the lime over the pasta bake, if desired, and serve.