Mexican Penne

You know what works for me? Making meals ahead when I know life will be crazy!

For those of you who read my blog on a semi-regular basis, you may have noticed I've been MIA for awhile now... I'm in the midst of finals (law school) and haven't found much time to sleep let alone blog, but I am taking a break tonight from the insanity to introduce you all to my favorite make-ahead (or make right now!) meal!

I made this about a week and a half ago, I knew I'd be too busy to cook (I haven't cooked since last Wednesday!) and I knew my boys would be hungry, so I made a few easy to throw together meals and threw them in the freezer, this is their second favorite - Shepherd's Pie being their first!

This recipe is for one casserole, but I made it into two because otherwise there are too many leftovers.

So here is what you need:

Hamburger, Penne, Salsa, Black Beans, Corn (I used fiesta corn with peppers in it), taco seasoning, and cheese. Don't you love when there are so few ingredients?!?

And okay, I was going to do a post about the taco seasoning, because I've made a bit of a big deal about it on my site before, but really, it is so super easy and the person that created it should get all the credit, so I won't steal her thunder. Have you ever heard of Kittencal? If you browse RecipeZaar at all you may have! I've tried several of her recipes and she is a genius, so when I saw her recipe for taco packet seasoning I made it immediately, and I've never looked back! So without further babbling here is the link: Kittencal's Taco Seasoning.  Please make it, you'll thank yourself, and you'll save some money in the long run on packets! (This is blasphemy I suppose on the Packet Queen website!)

Next step is to brown the meat, drain the grease and then add your taco seasoning, I used about 2 TBS:
Mix it well and then add your salsa:
I don't have measurements for you here, the recipe I used said to use 2 16oz jars, but as you saw earlier I had a huge jug of salsa, and I just dumped it in until it looked right, you can always add more if it doesn't look like enough after you mix it together.

Go ahead and drain your cans of corn and black beans and throw them into the mix:
And your cooked pasta (we use protein penne) and mix it all up:
I start eating it right about now, I've convinced myself it's to make sure there is enough salsa, but really it is just delicious!

Next, go ahead and get a casserole dish out and dump in half of the mix and cover it with cheese:
The recipe says to add the second half and then cover that with cheese as well, but I knew that our leftovers wouldn't be used so I decided to save the other half for this week. But since I wanted to have a second layer of cheese I added just a little bit of pasta and another coating of cheese:
Then I baked it at 350 for around 35-40 minutes, while it was baking I added the other half of the pasta to a labeled freezer bag (so the boys could handle it themselves):
Then the finished product came out of the oven:
Yummy! Here is my stepson's first helping:
And let me tell you, he is CRAZY for not adding a huge dollop of sour cream to this because it is just begging for it! So if you are sane, add sour cream!

And here is what was left after my boys had devoured it and I returned home from my last night class of the semester (did I mention I have THREE night classes next semester! ugh):
I had half for a late dinner and the rest for lunch the next day, and let me tell you, I did add sour cream and it was DELICIOUS. (But okay, if you don't add sour cream for whatever reason it is still good!)

Please let me know if this sounds good enough to make, I could use a little happiness in my dreary study world!!

Love and Luck to you,

The Packet Queen


  1. You might also enjoy the Taste of Home Mexican Lasagna that's on my blog since you really enjoy the flavors here. Hope to see you back at Crock Pot Wednesday this week.

  2. YUMMY. Thanks for sharing. I will definately be trying this recipe. I tell ya, everything tastes better with corn in it! I will be putting sour cream on mine too :) Carol

  3. Thanks for sharing, sounds great!

  4. yumm - will definately try this - will be good to give some new parents too!

  5. I cooked this Saturday - one for Tuesday and froze one for who knows when! I also had to sample to be sure we had enough Salsa. It was GREAT. Thanks for sharing.

  6. How much meat did you use for the two casseroles? 2 lbs? I have a family of four eaters so was thinken about maken acouple of these:) Is it better to thaw before sticken um in the oven , or just throw them in for extra time? how much extra time?? lol Thanks!! OH ya, also, do you under cook the pasta for freezing/re-cooking/warming?

  7. OHya, just started my own blog as well, it's http://learninglandhomeschool.blogspot.com/ with recipes as well:)

  8. For what you see above that is about 1.5lbs of beef - when I set out to make it I had planned on only making one and just having leftovers but thought freezing would be a better idea after all. I am feeding three total here, but if you've read any of my other recipes you'd know that one is a teenage boy who eats enough for at least 3 other people so... ;)that was definitely enough to feed us though - the pasta is very filling.

    I did thaw before popping into a casserole dish, but if you froze it in the shape of a casserole dish (or in a casserole dish) you could just pop it in and I don't think thawing would be necessary at all. I didn't thaw my shepherd's pie recipe that I doubled and it worked out just fine. I'm not exactly sure how much extra time it'd require if you baked it from frozen but I'd guestimate about an hour total instead of the 35-45 minutes.

    For the pasta - we use Protein Plus by Barilla and it cooks a little different than regular pasta - it has a definitely chewy texture and I always cook it for the rec. time. For regular pasta I'd probably undercook it by a few minutes since it is going to bake for awhile...

    Thanks for checking out my recipe! I'll head over to your site to look for some good recipe ideas too!! Have a great weekend!

  9. Well I know what we are having now for dinner, looks awesome. Now how do you find the pasta after freezing, mine always goes to mush??

  10. Hi!! Mine NEVER goes to mush - I think it's because I use the Barilla Plus and it is just a little bit tougher than regular pasta, give it a try! Thanks for the nice comment, hope you enjoy dinner!! :)


Does this sound good to you? Let me know!