This deliciously creamy and spicy Cajun chicken pasta dish is ready in about 30 minutes! A great recipe for a fancy night in.
Creamy Cajun pasta is one of my husband’s favorite dishes, so for this past Valentine’s Day I made my own special version just for him. Pretty spicy, and super creamy! And the best part is that this Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta recipe is ready in about 30 minutes! If you are looking for an elegant, indulgent and luxurious pasta recipe (without a ton of time or effort), look no further.
(A quick disclaimer – this is not an authentic Cajun recipe by any means, just my own interpretation of one of my husband’s favorite restaurant dishes!)
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Here’s what you need to make this fast Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta recipe:
- Boneless skinless chicken breast: you can substitute chicken thighs if you like. I give some other protein ideas in the “Substitution ideas” section below.
- Cajun seasoning: you can use your own homemade mix, but I just grabbed some at the store (available in the spice isle). If you are using a store-bought mix, look to see if it has salt in it or not, this will let you know whether you should be sparing when adding additional salt.
- Salt: this is to taste – most Cajun seasoning has salt already in it, so make sure you don’t go overboard!
- Bell pepper: use any color you have on hand; I used red bell pepper because I think the bright red color looks pretty!
- Onion: any kind is ok. I used a yellow onion.
- Oil: any kind that you usually use to saute with. I used olive oil.
- Plum tomatoes: these are good to cook with because they are lower moisture than other types of tomatoes, so it won’t make the sauce too watery.
- Heavy whipping cream: essential for a creamy pasta sauce! It’s really key to use heavy cream here instead of something lighter – this ensures the sauce doesn’t split.
- Parmesan cheese: I really like to use freshly grated here – there are no fillers so it helps the sauce have a velvety smooth finish. You could also substitute Romano cheese.
- Dried pasta: feel free to use any kind you like. I used pappardelle here because it seems “fancy” to me! See the section “Pasta shape suggestions” below for other ideas.
Pasta shape suggestions
As I mentioned, I like using pappardelle for this recipe. Pappardelle is a very wide, flat long noodle. Sometimes I have trouble finding pappardelle at the store – if you can’t find it, fettuccine would also work well.
I’ve also made this recipe with penne which was also great because the little tubes are excellent for holding the sauce. Penne is a good option if you prefer short pasta types (no twirling needed!). Other good short pasta options are ziti or rigatoni.
Protein substitution ideas
There are a lot of options if you aren’t feeling the chicken breast. As I mentioned in the Ingredients section, you can easily swap boneless skinless chicken thighs for the chicken breast. And you can forego the chicken altogether – try cubes of pork tenderloin, whole peeled and deveined shrimp, or even slices of pre-cooked sausage.
If you are using a quicker cooking protein like shrimp, cut the cooking time listed in the recipe so you don’t overcook the shrimp. Then remove the cooked shrimp from the pan before sauteing the onion and bell pepper.
Vegetable substitution ideas
You can easily swap out the bell pepper and onion for other veggies you like. Go for vegetables that are relatively quick cooking. Try sliced mushrooms, 1 inch pieces of asparagus, or small broccoli florets.
Here are a few quick tips on making this Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta:
Timing the pasta to be finished when sauce is ready
If you want to enjoy this delicious pasta dish as soon as possible, it’s helpful if you can time the pasta to be finished right when the sauce is done. To accomplish this, these tips will help:
- Take note of the pasta cooking time before you start cooking
- Start heating up the pasta water right in the beginning
- If your pasta water starts boiling before you are ready to add the water, just turn down the water slightly to keep it at a simmer. Then, a minute or two before you need to add the pasta, turn it up again and it should get up to a boil quickly.
If you missed the timing on the pasta (happens to me all the time!), it’s better to err on the side of finishing the sauce first. The sauce will easily sit on the stove on the lowest heat setting while the pasta finishes cooking.
Other helpful tips
- Regarding the veggies: cut the onion and bell pepper thinly, so it doesn’t take too long to cook. And make sure to finely chop the tomatoes. This ensures the tomatoes break down enough during cooking and also that the pieces of tomato skin aren’t too distracting. Here is a visual for the sizes you should aim for:
- To easily grate the Parmesan, I recommend using a Microplane. I tried grating the Parmesan with both a regular box grater and a Microplane, and the Microplane was so, so much easier and faster! I have this one (affiliate link).
- Make sure you generously salt the pasta water! This is really your only chance to get seasoning into the pasta itself and will make sure the final dish doesn’t end up tasting under seasoned. Think a few large pinches, rather than just a sprinkle.
- Don’t forget to taste the finished sauce before adding in the pasta. If it tastes a little flat, add a touch more salt and/or another sprinkle of Cajun seasoning.
- Drain the pasta very well before adding it to the sauce. If the pasta has a lot of water clinging to it (which can happen with tube shaped pasta if not drained well), it can make the sauce too watery.
If you’ve tried this recipe for Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta, please let me know what you thought about it in the comments down below, I would love to hear from you! You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to see more delicious recipes from Nibble and Dine!
(And if you are looking for more creamy pasta dishes, try my recipe for Ravioli with Pumpkin Cream Sauce!)Print
A spicy, creamy Cajun sauce envelops tender pasta and sauteed chicken breast, bell peppers and onion. A quick yet indulgent recipe, perfect for a romantic night in!
- 1 bell pepper, any color
- 1 small or 1/2 large onion
- 2 cups finely chopped plum tomatoes (about 2 – 3 plum tomatoes)
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon neutral oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons (6 teaspoons) Cajun seasoning, divided (see note 1)
- salt, to taste
- 8 ounces pasta (suggested shapes: pappardelle, penne, or fettuccine)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- Set a large pot of water over high heat to boil. While waiting for water to boil, proceed with the following steps. Once water is boiling and you are ready to cook the pasta, add a couple generous pinches of salt and cook according to directions on the box. (See notes 2 – 4 below about how to time the pasta cooking with making the sauce.)
- Prep vegetables and cheese: thinly slice the bell pepper and onion. Finely chop the plum tomatoes. Finely shred the Parmesan cheese. Set aside (keep bell pepper and onion separate from tomatoes).
- Cut chicken breast into 1 inch cubes. Sprinkle lightly with salt and 1 tbsp. of the Cajun seasoning. Toss the chicken to evenly coat in the salt and Cajun seasoning.
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. oil over medium high heat. Add seasoned chicken to the hot pan in an even layer. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring only occasionally to allow the chicken to develop a brown crust on the exterior.
- Add the bell pepper and onion to the pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and add an additional 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning. Cook the bell pepper, onion and chicken, stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened and chicken is fully cooked, about 2 – 3 minutes. Remove chicken and vegetables into a medium bowl. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and set aside.
- Add remaining 1 tsp. oil to the hot pan. Add finely chopped tomatoes, a sprinkle of salt, and remaining 2 tsp. Cajun seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes break down and some of the moisture begins to evaporate from the tomatoes, about 2 – 3 minutes.
- Add heavy cream and finely shredded Parmesan cheese. Let simmer until sauce is slightly thickened and creamy, about 2 – 3 minutes. Taste the sauce and add additional salt and/or Cajun seasoning if needed.
- When pasta is finished cooking, drain it well and add to sauce, along with chicken, bell pepper and onion mixture. Serve immediately with additional shredded Parmesan cheese.
- Before you start cooking, check to see if your Cajun seasoning has salt in it or not. If it does, be sparing when adding additional salt; you can always add more if needed. The amount of Cajun seasoning listed here results in a medium level of spiciness (in my opinion!). Adjust the amount of seasoning to your own tastes.
- The pasta will taste the freshest if it finishes cooking right when the sauce is done or a little after. Before you start the sauce, check how long your pasta needs to cook and time accordingly.
- If the pasta water is boiling before you are ready to add the pasta, turn the heat down slightly to maintain a simmer, then turn the heat back up a minute or two before you are ready to add the pasta.
- If the sauce is ready before the pasta has finished cooking, just turn the heat on the skillet down to the lowest setting to keep the sauce warm, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done.
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