Cajun Chicken Pasta

One night while Jon and I were lounging in the community pool, we were throwing around ideas for dinner. Jon suggested that we don’t often have Cajun food. I agreed with him.

We had discovered our new love of Cajun food when we came across a New Orleans-style restaurant in a neighboring town to us in Indiana…but we discovered it about 1 week before we were moving to South Carolina…wish we would have found it years ago…

When we went to that restaurant, we fell in love with the food. While we were eating, the chef came out and was standing just outside of the kitchen door (in which we were in close proximity). He just stood there smiling for a few minutes, then started asking diners how everything was tasting. We, of course said everything was delicious…it REALLY was. We overheard him tell someone else he just loved coming out of the kitchen to see people eat his food. I loved his passion for food and his caring about the reactions of his guests’ while they enjoyed their meals…that has always stuck with me.

So in honor of our experience, Jon and I came up with our own Cajun inspired meal. The great thing is that it combines Cajun flavors with a cheesy pasta. Come on, now…is there anything more comforting than a cheesy pasta? This dish has a little spicy kick from the seasonings and really goes well with the creamy cheddar cheese.

Here’s what I used:

For the chicken and veggies:
1 lb pasta (your favorite shape and size), cooked
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped bell pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp flour
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken tenders
½ tbsp Cajun or Creole seasoning (I used: Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, 17 oz (Pack of 2) )

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup heavy cream (that’s been warmed in the microwave for 15-30 seconds, enough to take the chill off)
1 cup milk (that’s been warmed in the microwave for 15-30 seconds, enough to take the chill off)
1 tsp extra of Cajun or Creole seasoning (I used: Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, 17 oz (Pack of 2) )
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp ground Cayenne
2 cups sharp shredded cheddar cheese (set ½ cup aside)
½ cup pasta water (the water that your pasta was cooked in)
1 tsp dried parsley

Start by cooking your pasta according to package instructions.  When pasta is cooked, scoop out ½ cup of the pasta water and set aside to use later.

Start by cooking your pasta according to package instructions. When pasta is cooked, scoop out ½ cup of the pasta water and set aside to use later.

Drain the rest of the water from the pasta.  Set pasta aside.

Drain the rest of the water from the pasta. Set pasta aside.  Woo!  That got a little steamy!

While pasta is cooking, toss the chicken tenders is the olive oil and ½ tbsp of Cajun or Creole seasoning.

While pasta is cooking, toss the chicken tenders in the olive oil and ½ tbsp of Cajun or Creole seasoning.

Sauté or grill the chicken on medium-high heat, turning midway through.  Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Sauté or grill the chicken on medium-high heat, turning midway through. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the chicken is cooked and cool enough to handle, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and set aside.

Once the chicken is cooked and cool enough to handle, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, and set aside.

Chop your veggies.

Chop your veggies.

Next, 2 tbsp butter to a skillet on medium heat.

Next, add 2 tbsp butter to a skillet on medium heat.

Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper to the skillet.  Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper to the skillet. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add in the garlic powder, cayenne pepper and extra 1 tsp of Cajun or Creole seasoning. Stir.

 

Next add in the flour.  Stir and cook for about 1 minute.

Next add in the flour. Stir and cook for about 1 minute.

Next, add in the heavy cream and milk.  Bring to a simmer, stirring every few minutes.  The sauce will start to thicken after about 5- 10 minutes.

Next, add in the heavy cream and milk. Bring to a simmer, stirring every few minutes. The sauce will start to thicken after about 5- 10 minutes.

Add the 1 and ½ cups of cheese to the sauce and stir.  The cheese will also help the sauce to thicken more.

Add the 1 and ½ cups of cheese to the sauce and stir. The cheese will also help the sauce to thicken more.

Stir the chicken into the cheese sauce.

Stir the chicken into the cheese sauce.

Add in the pasta and pasta water.  Stir/toss to combine completely.

Add in the pasta and pasta water. Stir/toss to combine completely.

Garnish the top with the remaining ½ cup of cheese and dried parsley.

Garnish the top with the remaining ½ cup of cheese and tsp dried parsley.

Serve it up and eat!  This serves about 4-6 depending on your portion sizes.

Serve it up and eat! This serves about 4-6, depending on your portion sizes.

 

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