2 dozen uncooked jumbo shells approximately 24 shells
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 pound extra lean ground beef
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 14.5 ounce jar salsa
1/2 cup sour cream
1.5 cups Tex-Mex cheese blend divided
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: cilantro avocado, scallions, tomatoes, sour cream, etc. (optional, to taste)
Start by boiling a large pot of salted water for the jumbo shells. Cook the shells until they are al dente, following the package instructions.
In a skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil and chopped onion. Sauté for 4-5 minutes until the onion starts to lightly brown.
Stir in the minced garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
Add the extra lean ground beef, chili powder, smoked paprika, and ground cumin to the skillet. Cook for about 8 minutes, breaking up the beef with a spoon as it browns and cooks through. If there is excess fat, you can spoon most of it out.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and position the rack in the top third of the oven. Grease a 9×13 baking dish and spread the salsa evenly on the bottom.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the sour cream and half of the Tex-Mex cheese blend. Stir until the cheese is melted and the mixture is well combined. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste.
Rinse the cooked jumbo shells under cool water and drain them thoroughly. Using a small spoon, generously fill each shell with the beef and cheese mixture. Place the stuffed shells in the greased baking dish.
Sprinkle the remaining Tex-Mex cheese blend over the stuffed shells, ensuring each one is covered with a delicious layer of melted cheese.
Bake the shells, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. If you prefer a golden and slightly crispy topping, broil them for a few minutes after baking. You can cover the dish with foil prior to baking if you desire a softer texture (remove the foil for broiling).
While the shells are baking, prepare your favorite toppings such as cilantro, avocado, scallions, tomatoes, and sour cream. These optional garnishes will add an extra layer of freshness and texture to your Taco Stuffed Shells.
Once baked to perfection, you can choose to either top the shells in the baking dish with your desired garnishes or serve the shells on individual plates and allow each person to customize their own toppings.
For a vegetarian option, you can substitute the ground beef with plant-based meat alternatives or use a combination of black beans and corn.
These Taco Stuffed Shells make for excellent leftovers. Simply store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and reheat in the oven or microwave when ready to enjoy again.