Cajun Chicken Pasta

The Boy is a carboholic. Chef J and I, of course, have an ever expanding middle-aged spread to fight off so we try to avoid them more and more. But The Boy is a growing teenager and it is difficult to fill the void that is his belly. So I’ve been running through my repertoire of pasta dishes to try and fill him up. Unfortunately, we found ourselves growing a little tired of the same things over and over again. So when he asked for “some kind of noodles” for dinner, I went online for inspiration. I had intended to make a chicken and sun-dried tomato thing for him but, alas, oil packed sun-dried tomatoes were no where to be found in my supermarket so I had to plan something on the fly. I was already buying bell peppers to make Bill’s Killer Meatloaf (one for this week, one to freeze for later in the month!) so I threw in an extra pepper along with some spicy andouille sausage and decided to go for a Cajun inspired pasta.

We’ve all seen these on restaurant menus and this isn’t that different than those but I’ve cut back a little on the cream. Plus you can get this at home anytime you like. Fair warning, this makes a TON of food. But the leftovers heat up beautifully so you can have lunch later in the week as well.

This is one of those great truly one pot meals in that you’ll cook the pasta right in the sauce so it soaks up all the yummy things happening in your pot. It’s important that you have a lidded pot so that the liquid is absorbed and not evaporated.  And none of the measurements have to be completely precise. A can of tomatoes is usually 14 ounces which is just over 1 1/2 C. After you dump them in the pot, you can “measure” your other ingredients right in the can before tossing it in the recycling bin. This really comes together pretty quickly with minimal clean up if you have everything chopped in advance so it’s great for a busy night.

I hope you enjoy!

The chicken thighs hang out in their spice rub while everything else gets chopped. It’s always a great idea to chop EVERYTHING before you even turn on the stove. I promise the cooking will go so much faster that way.
Brown meats separately in the same pot and add to a bowl to hang out while everything else cooks. They will leave amazing flavor in the pot which will infuse your other ingredients with their yumminess.
After you remove the meats from the pot, add veggies, pasta, tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Combine well, cover and bring to a boil then reduce heat, stirring occasionally.
Once your pasta is al dente, remove the pot from heat and stir in parmesan, reserved meats, peas and a big knob of butter. You are ready to go!

Cajun Chicken Pasta (serves 4-6 generously)

  • 8 oz. andouille sausage, sliced
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 T Cajun seasoning (like Tony Cacheret), divided
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 scallions, chopped, white and greens divided
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T hot sauce (I like Crystal)
  • 12 oz tubular pasta (like cavatappi or ziti)
  • 1 14 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (My supermarket was out of fire roasted this time so I had to use plain. Not fatal but I definitely prefer that extra flavor in the fire-roasted tomatoes.)
  • heavy cream or half and half (about 1 C)
  • chicken stock (about 1 1/2 C)
  • Big handful of frozen peas (maybe 3/4 C), thawed
  • 1/2 C grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 T room temperature butter

Rub about 1 T Cajun seasoning onto chicken and let it hang out on a plate while you chop everything else.

Heat oil in a large heavy pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add sliced andouille and saute, stirring and turning often, until brown and slightly crisped and fat rendered. Remove with slotted spoon to a bowl.

Add seasoned chicken to hot pot in batches, adding a little more oil if needed. Cook without disturbing much until nicely browned, about 5-6 minutes per side. Remove to cutting board to rest.

If there isn’t a lot of fat in the pot, add just a splash more oil. Reduce heat to medium and add scallion whites (you’ll use the scallion greens later), onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic to same pot with about 1/2 t salt (there’s already a lot of salt in the andouille and the Cajun seasoning). Cook, stirring often and scraping up the delicious brown bits from the bottom, until onions are becoming translucent, about 5-10 minutes.

Add pasta to pot and stir so it gets coated with all the goodness in there. Add tomatoes (hang on to that can) and remaining 1 T Cajun seasoning. Stir well and add Worcestershire and hot sauce. Fill tomato can with chicken stock and add to pot. Fill can about halfway with cream and add to pot.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes until pasta is al dente and most liquid is absorbed.

While pasta is cooking, slice chicken into thin strips and add to bowl with andouille.

When pasta is cooked, remove pot from heat. Stir in 1/2 C Parmesan, peas, chicken and andouille. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Stir in butter just to make the sauce glisten a little and to add a little richness.

Serve in shallow bowls garnish with reserved scallion greens and extra Parmesan.

Bowl full of yumminess.

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