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Eating Well: Taco Bake deliciously easy pasta variation

Pasta is always such a filling and satisfying evening meal. I ran across this recipe a few weeks ago and was anxious to try it. As a big fan of hard shell tacos I thought this could indeed be a pleasant variation and a great way to stretch a pound of ground beef.

Starting with the box of deluxe macaroni and cheese, it also sounded like a breeze to prepare.

What a pleasant surprise.

By the time the ground beef was browned and seasoned with the packet of taco spices, the macaroni was tender and ready for the addition of the cheese packet.

I must admit I was a little leery about adding the sour cream, fearful the taste would be overwhelming, but such was not the case.

The macaroni mixture layered extremely well with the taco meat and the cheeses. I did use a little bit more than the pound of burger, so I also layered a little bit of the meat mixture on the top before I added the salsa and the rest of the cheese.

Being a cheese freak I also increased the amount of that ingredient, so feel free to do so if you wish, as a little extra cheese can never hurt oozing out from the layers, especially when paired with macaroni.

I didn't have cheddar on hand so used co-jack instead, and it was a great substitute.

A recipe tip also suggested crushing tortilla chips and adding them to the top along with the salsa and cheese. I didn't do that, but in retrospect I think that would have been a really flavorful addition.

All in all, the Taco Bake was every bit as delicious as the photo I took suggests, and definitely falls under the "make again" category.

It would be a great "company" dish served with a nice side salad.

On that salad note, the next go-round, I plan on topping the Taco Bake with shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes before serving (and maybe a slice or two of fresh avocados.)

Until next time, from my kitchen to yours, happy cooking!

Taco Bake

1 (14 oz.) package Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese Dinner (I used Kraft)

1 lb. ground beef

1 package taco seasoning mix (any brand)

¾ cup water

¾ cup sour cream

1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup thick and chunky salsa (any brand)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare macaroni and cheese dinner as directed on the box. While the macaroni is cooking, brown your ground beef, drain, add taco seasoning and water and simmer for five minutes.

Stir the sour cream into the prepared macaroni and cheese dinner. Spoon half of the dinner mixture into an 8 or 9 inch square or round greased baking dish. Put meat mixture on top and then one cup of the cheese and the remaining macaroni mixture. Cover and bake for 20 minutes.

Take out of oven and top with salsa and remaining cheese and bake uncovered for an addition five to ten minutes or until cheese is melted.

Makes about six servings.