This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #WonderfulYourWay #CollectiveBias
Cajun Chicken Pasta – Spicy Cajun chicken tossed in yummy Barilla penne pasta with a homemade Parmesan cream sauce. Such a perfect dish for date night!
A few months ago, my husband suggested that we set aside two Fridays a month for date nights. Just us, going out for a fun evening out on the town. Such an amazing idea! For at least two nights a month, we check out an awesome restaurant and even splurge a bit for a date night.
But this month we’ve been eating out a lot so we decided to spend this Friday cooking together at home. I love when we get a chance to cook together. Usually it’s just him or I cooking dinner on a given night so its truly special when we get to do it together.
One of our favorite dishes to eat out (and one of the few we equally enjoy) is Cajun chicken pasta. Have you ever had it? Many restaurants make it and they tend to have their own twist on it. It’s usually a Parmesan cream sauce with spicy Cajun chicken, perfectly al dente pasta, and a collection of vegetables, whether it be tomatoes, peppers, onions, or all three.
So that’s we decided to make!
I don’t usually gravitate to spicy dishes so “Cajun chicken pasta” is not typically something I would order. But when I was working as a hostess at a restaurant, I had the opportunity to try their version. And I absolutely loved it!
The spiciness of the chicken is mellowed out with the creamy Parmesan sauce so I’m not drinking water every five seconds to cool off my mouth. But what I loved most was the collection of flavors. It had more depth than a fettuccine alfredo or any other pasta dish that I’d had up until then. Plus, how can you go wrong with pasta and cream sauce?!
The great thing about the recipe is that you can switch it up to suite you and your tastes. You can use a mixture of chicken and shrimp, or chicken and sausage, or all three! But if you use sausage, no need to cover in Cajun seasonings since it’s already seasoned.
When it comes the pasta, I’ve seen it made with all different kinds. We decided to use Barilla® Classic Blue Box Penne because of it’s ability to hold the sauce so well. See the ridges in the pasta? That’s exactly what they’re meant to do – grip the sauce.
You may remember me declare my love for Barilla pasta in this post during the holidays. I use Barilla pasta for all my pasta dishes because of the quality of their pasta. You really can’t deny a pasta that is so well-made. You can find Barilla products at your local Kroger, located on the pasta aisle.
Before you get started on making this awesome dish with your significant other, here are some tips that I think you’ll find helpful:
- If you two plan to cook this dish together, split up the tasks before you start. Maybe you’ll make the chicken and your significant other will make the sauce? That’s exactly how we split up the tasks. It reduced the total cook time since we able to cook simultaneously.
- Make sure to save your pasta water after the pasta has been drained. If the pasta sauce gets too thick, we’ll use this super flavorful water to thin it out. The first time I was told to do this, I was perplexed with the task: how exactly am I supposed to save the water if it goes down the drain?! Well, my friends, this is when your slotted spoon comes in handy. You will simply scoop out the pasta from the water and place in a medium bowl until the rest of the components (i.e. chicken and sauce) are ready. Leave the hot water in the pot on the stove (with the heat off) until we need it.
- When I’m making a cream sauce like this one, I typically like to cook it in the same pan that I used to cook the chicken so that it gets all that added flavor. However, Cajun seasoning tends to be a lot spicier and even saltier than just salt and pepper. So if you cook your sauce in the same pan, your sauce may be too spicy and/or too salty. That’s why I recommend that you use separate pans. Yes, than means one more thing to clean but it’s worth it. Trust me – I’ve made this mistake before.
- Usually, when I see that a recipe calls for fresh parsley, I see this as a suggestion and not a requirement for the dish. Not here, people! I highly encourage you to add the 2 tablespoons of fresh, chopped parsley to this dish. With all the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese in the sauce, you can really use the fresh flavor from the parsley. Plus, it adds gorgeous, little green flecks all throughout.
I hope you are inspired to stay in for your next date night. Or even for this upcoming Valentine’s Day! I assure you that this dish will make the perfect meal for you two to enjoy. Make sure to cap off the romantic evening with one of these milkshakes or this chocolate raspberry mousse!
For more ideas on how to make pasta “Wonderful Your Way,” check out the awesome collection of pasta dishes you can make with help from Barilla, including some more date night ideas!
Cajun Chicken Pasta
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
- 8 ounces Barilla classic penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons butter unsalted
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1/2 cup tomato diced
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- pasta water as needed
- salt and pepper to taste
- Add Cajun seasoning and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to large plastic zipper bag and mix together. Add chicken and toss to coat. Add remaining olive oil to medium skillet and heat to medium high. Cook chicken until cooked through, about 6 minutes each side. Place on a plate and cover with foil.
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt to water and then add pasta. Cook until al dente. Scoop out of water with a slotted spoon and into a large bowl. Cover pasta to keep warm. Keep pasta water in case we need it for the sauce.
- In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add lemon zest and then gradually whisk in heavy cream. Let cream cook until it begins to bubble. Add Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Let sauce thicken for another couple of minutes. If it gets too thick, add a little pasta water to thin it out. Give the sauce a taste. Add salt and pepper, as needed. Add tomatoes and toss to get them warmed up.
- Add pasta to skillet with the sauce. Slice chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to pasta. Add chopped parsley and toss everything together. Top with a few more tomatoes, parsley, and cheese for garnish. Serve immediately.