This is one of my go-to “fancy” recipes. It’s impressive when finished, but it’s deceptively simple to make. I usually bust this out on the weekends for an at-home date night, since no matter what restaurant we go to, my husband orders the exact same thing: the Cajun pasta.
I make mine with a lot of spice because my husband has the tolerance of a true New Orleans boy, even though he’s from Youngstown. Once, I asked for a bite of his buffalo chicken tenders, since he was eating them like they were mild. I took one bite and my eyes started watering, my tongue was fire, and I coughed for a good 5 minutes while I tried to recover. He likes it spicy.
If you don’t, just cut back on the amount of cayenne pepper and omit the red pepper flakes altogether. This Cajun jambalaya pasta recipe is a modified version of Emeril Lagasse’s (much spicier!), but I think you’ll like it no matter what.
Salt for pasta cooking water plus 3/4 teaspoon, divided
1 pound dry pasta (you can use spaghetti, penne, or even bowtie might well for this sauce)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound peeled, deveined large shrimp
2 tablespoons your favorite Cajun seasoning
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
3/4 pound andouille sausage or smoked sausage, diced
1/2 cup yellow onion, small diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, small diced
1/2 cup chicken stock/broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon thyme
2 teaspoons cayenne (optional)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon basil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Cook the pasta in salted water for a few minutes shorter than the recommended cooking time, according to the package. Drain and set aside, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
While the pasta cooks, preheat your skillet and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Season the shrimp with Cajun seasoning. Set it aside. Season the chicken breast with 2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning. Cook the chicken in the pan for 5 minutes, making sure to brown it on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside with the uncooked, seasoned shrimp.
Place the remaining olive oil in the skillet and add the sausage, onions and bell peppers. Cook until the sausage is brown and veggies are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, diced tomatoes, thyme and cook for 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream to the pan and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the uncooked shrimp and cooked chicken to the pan, as well as the pasta. Season with cayenne and red pepper flakes, if desired.
If the sauce looks too thick, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Continue to cook the sauce and pasta, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp and chicken are cooked through and the pasta is tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the basil and Parmesan. Taste. If needed, add more Cajun seasoning or salt to bring out the flavor.