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When it comes to satisfying our taste buds, Cajun Shrimp Pasta is a go-to dish that never disappoints. This recipe combines succulent shrimp, a rich cream sauce, and a tantalizing blend of spices to create a meal that bursts with flavor.
Whether you’re a fan of spicy cuisine or simply looking for a quick and easy dinner recipe, Cajun Shrimp Pasta is a must-try dish that will please the entire family.
Continue reading to see why this recipe works, what it tastes like, and why you should add it to your repertoire of pasta recipes.
Table of Contents
Quick and Easy for Busy Weeknights
With its simple preparation and cooking process, Cajun Shrimp Pasta is an ideal choice for easy weeknight meals. In just a few steps, you can have a satisfying dinner ready on the table in no time.
Since there is little measuring and no chopping, the entire recipe can pretty much be cooked in the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta. That means that in 10-15 minutes, you can have a complete dinner.
By following the package instructions for cooking the pasta and sautéing the shrimp in a large skillet over medium-high heat, you’ll have a hearty and delicious meal without the fuss.
The Perfect Combination of Spices
Cajun Shrimp Pasta owes its distinct flavor to the harmonious blend of spices used in the dish.
The homemade Cajun seasoning, featuring spices like smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion salt, herbs, and black pepper, imparts just the right amount of kick without overpowering the other flavors.
This heat level can be adjusted to suit your preference, making it versatile for those who enjoy both mild and spicy food.
A Creamy Sauce That Makes a Difference
The spicy alfredo sauce is the heart and soul of this pasta dish. With ingredients like heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and butter, the sauce becomes velvety and indulgent, enveloping the penne pasta and shrimp in a luscious coating.
It adds depth and richness to the overall flavor profile, ensuring each bite is a delight for the senses.
One of the highlights of this recipe is undoubtedly the succulent shrimp. The Cajun spice brings out the best in the shrimp, enhancing its natural sweetness while adding a touch of heat.
Each bite offers a burst of flavor, perfectly complementing the creamy sauce and al dente pasta.
Versatility in Ingredients
Cajun Shrimp Pasta is highly adaptable to personal preferences and dietary needs. You can experiment with different types of pasta, such as whole wheat or gluten-free options, to make it even healthier. Additionally, you can incorporate colorful veggies like green and red bell peppers, diced tomatoes, or even andouille sausage to further enhance the dish’s depth of flavor.
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How to Make It
- This recipe starts by boiling the pasta in salted water. It’s important to use a full tablespoon of salt in your pasta water because the salt will flavor the pasta. Before you drain the pasta, be sure to reserve some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce later, if needed.
- While the pasta is cooking, saute the shrimp. They will cook quickly over relatively high heat. You’ll remove the shrimp from the pan and set them aside and then use that same pan to make the sauce.
- The cajun cream sauce is simply a mixture of heavy cream that you bring to a boil and parmesan cheese that melts in creamy smooth. There’s enough cajun seasoning ont he shrimp and in the pan to give the sauce plenty of flavor. The sauce thickens within minutes and then you simply toss everything together to serve.
Yes, you can use any type of pasta you prefer, but penne pasta works well as it holds the sauce and seasonings effectively.
The spiciness can be adjusted to your taste by controlling the amount of Cajun seasoning used. It offers a flavorful kick without being overwhelmingly hot.
Absolutely! While shrimp adds a delightful seafood element, you can substitute it with chicken, sausage, or even vegetables to suit your preferences or dietary restrictions.
It’s best to enjoy Cajun Shrimp Pasta immediately after cooking, as the creamy sauce may thicken upon refrigeration. However, you can store leftovers in an airtight container and reheat them the next day for a tasty meal.
Definitely! In fact, with this recipe, it is recommended so that you can control the amount of salt. Making your own Cajun seasoning allows you to adjust the flavors according to your preference.
Yes, you can substitute the heavy cream and butter with dairy-free alternatives like coconut milk or cashew cream. Vegan parmesan cheese can also be used to achieve a similar flavor.
Yes! Feel free to add colorful vegetables such as bell peppers, diced tomatoes, or even spinach to incorporate more nutrients and textures into the dish.
It is not recommended to freeze the dish, as the creamy sauce may separate upon thawing. It is best enjoyed fresh for the optimal taste and texture.
If you prefer a milder flavor, reduce the amount of cayenne pepper or omit it entirely from the Cajun seasoning. Adjust the heat level to suit your taste preferences.
Cajun Shrimp Pasta pairs well with a healthy green salad, steamed broccoli, or a side of crusty bread to soak up the creamy sauce. It’s a versatile dish that allows for a range of complementary sides.
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Cajun Shrimp Pasta
To cook pasta:
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 8 ounces penne pasta
To cook shrimp and sauce:
- 1 pound raw shrimp deveined, cleaned, tail removed (best results if patted dry with paper towels)
- 2 tablespoons cajun seasoning *see note below, use this quantity if making my homemade seasoning blend; may turn out too salty if using store bought
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese finely grated from a block (a microplane works best); pre-grated or not real authentic parmesan won't melt as nicely
Prior to cooking, prep all of your ingredients. You will want to add the pasta to the water around the same time you start cooking the shrimp.
- Combine the shrimp with the Cajun seasoning and the olive oil in bowl. Toss to combine.
- Add salt to pot of water and bring to a boil. At the same time, heat a large skillet over medium high heat.
- Add the pasta to the salted boiling water and cook to al dente doneness. Before draining, scoop out at least 1/2 cup of the cooking water. This will be reserved to thin the sauce, if needed. Drain pasta and set aside.
- As soon as you add the pasta to the water, add the butter to the skillet and melt. Add the seasoned shrimp in a single layer and cook until golden brown on each side, turning only once. You may have to cook shrimp in two batches to allow enough room. Once they are done cooking, transfer the cooked shrimp to a clean plate and reduce the heat to medium.
- Add the heavy cream to the pan and scrape the bottom with a flat shaped wooden spoon to release any seasoning that stuck to the skillet. Allow the cream to bubble around the edges. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the parmesan cheese to melt.
- Add the cooked pasta and shrimp and stir to coat. If the sauce needs to be thinned, add the reserved pasta water, one tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is achieved. Taste and add additional salt, if desired depending on your tastes.
- Salt level: I highly recommend making my homemade Cajun Seasoning Mix. If you use a store bought Cajun seasoning blend, which most likely contains much more salt than I use in my blend, you should start with a small amount, taste, and continue to add to your liking. Note: because my seasoning blend is purposely less-salty, you may need to add additional salt to your serving depending on your tastes.
- Cajun Seasoning: You can decrease the amount of spice by lowering the amount of Cayenne Pepper and/or red pepper flakes.
- Protein variations: I often like to make this exact same recipe but with a flattened tenderized chicken breast or wild caught scallops. Both are delicious.
- Parmesan cheese: It is highly recommended that you grate the cheese from a block using a microplane. It will melt instantly in the cream. If you have pre-grated, I recommend mincing it as fine as you can.
- Double the recipe! You can click the 2x button and it will scale the ingredients to double the recipe. I always double it to feed my hungry family of four with leftovers to spare. My homemade Cajun mix will make 4 Tablespoons of seasoning which is the exact amount needed if you choose to double this Cajun Shrimp Pasta Recipe.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
This post was originally created for Centsless Meals where I was a contributor. It was originally published in 2019 and has been updated with more information to make the recipe more helpful.