If you’re into a creamy sauce with a spicy kick and the freedom to mix chicken and shrimp together with your pasta, then this Creamy Cajun Pasta is for you.
I wanted to try something new. Usually, by the time I’m posting a recipe on the site, I’ve made it a few times. You know? I’m going to make sure I know what I’m doing, that I’ve gotten it exactly how I want it before I’m going to share it with you and publish it. This means that I’ve looked at a few different recipes for the same thing and created some sort of hybrid of a few different things, taking a little bit from this one over here and a little bit from this one over there and learning from mistakes. That’s cooking, you know? Dump and stir, trial and error.
Enter: Wing It Wednesdays. I’m going to find a recipe, take the usual pictures and hope for the best. Whether it works out great or turns into a hot mess and goes off the rails, I’m going to share it with you. I’ll tell you where it worked, where it didn’t, what I learned, what I would do differently next time, if there will even be a next time.
I get a lot of food-spiration on Instagram these days. I used to live on Pinterest, trying to find inspiration for things to make for dinner, only to end up falling back on our old favorites and not really branching out too much. We had a fairly small list of foods on rotation and I would always ask Jeff what he thought he’d want for dinner for the week, but I would hate all of his suggestions. Since starting WW, I ask for his opinion way less (lol) and try new things all the time! In fact, most of what I make comes from something I’ve seen on Instagram while searching through WW related hashtags. What a time to be alive.
The one of the best things about WW is that I don’t have to live in a world where I can’t eat pasta. Like real pasta. Guys, that’s a big deal. Pasta is, like, a staple in our house. The other good thing is that people on the internet who have come before me have done most of the legwork to make delicious, flavorful low-point foods and I just get to reap those benefits. It’s a beautiful thing. Pasta is life, guys.
If you’re into a creamy sauce with a spicy kick and the freedom to mix chicken and shrimp together with your pasta, then this Creamy Cajun Pasta is for you. Also, if you’re not into mixing your proteins, then just sub one out for the other and keep it homogenous. The freedom is yours. This is America, after all. Land of the Free. (Supposedly…)
Now, Lite Cravings is a site I found through using Instagram and following WW hashtags, but after seeing several people post about their dinners and recipes by Geri at Lite Cravings, I gave it a go too. Turns out I have several of her recipes saved to come back to later. Having made one now, I will definitely be going back for more.
Step 1: Prep Your Protein
It seems like every time I’m cooking and writing about it, I always talk about mise en place, which is the fancy chef’s term for prep your shit. Mise en place basically means to get all of your ingredients ready to go and all of your tools and equipment ready to go so all you have to worry about when you’re cooking is actually cooking. No hunting for a whisk or last-minute chopping something you need to throw into a hot pan right now. It means reading a recipe from start to finish and planning for what’s to come, not just winging it. So, even though this post is called Wing It Wednesday, I only “wing it” in the sense that I’ve never made it before; a girl’s got too much anxiety to not read the whole recipe before she gives it a whirl and documents it.
So, I started by getting my shrimp thawed and patted dry. I buy my shrimp raw & frozen, peeled, deveined and tails off. It’s just easier for me that way and they still taste good and fresh. It works. You can, of course, buy fresh shrimp from a seafood market or from the seafood section of your grocery store… I don’t have a reason for why I don’t other than I hate talking to strangers, I don’t have a relationship with anyone in the meat department at my grocery stores and I’m not driving downtown with the baby to go to Fish Lads when the mood strikes to have seafood. Plus, buying frozen shrimp means I can have shrimp on hand at all times in my freezer and whip something delicious up in a pinch if need be. Do what works best for you and your life. You’re the boss. I should mention that when it comes to size of shrimp, I’m into jumbo shrimp, so I buy the bag that has 20-30 shrimp per pound. The higher the number per pound, the smaller your shrimp are. I used one pound of shrimp for this recipe.
Second, I cut my chicken breasts into bite size pieces. I tried to get similar sizes as the shrimp would be once they were cooked so things would cook at about the same rate and for mouth-feel, I wanted things to be relatively uniform. If we’re being honest, I would halve my shrimp and cut my chicken just a touch smaller so that everything was just a little bit smaller. Everything was just a little bit bigger than “bite size” and created for a very large mouthful. Live and Learn, right? I ended up using about 1 pound of chicken for this recipe.
The next thing, before cooking your protein, is to season it with two teaspoons of the Cajun seasoning. I suppose you could make your own seasoning mix, but I just found one in the spice aisle of my grocery store. It absolutely did the trick. The easiest way I have found when trying to truly coat something with a sauce, spice, or marinade is to throw it in a zip-top bag and toss it around. So that’s exactly what I did.
Step 2: Cook Your Pasta
Another interesting takeaway about WW is that I really do measure and/or weigh my food now, which seems kind of annoying but not as annoying as being fat is, so I do it. This is something I would have just thrown the whole box of pasta in and had leftovers for days or just “eyeballed” it and been wrong. Measure your shit, guys. It’s totally worth it.
Step 3: Start Cookin’
So, Geri’s recipe didn’t say to split it up and cook all one protein and then the other; I’m just anal like that, so I pulled out a few shrimp first, careful not to crowd the pan because I really wanted to get them to brown. I did the same thing with the chicken. I browned the meat in batches and set them aside on a plate until everything was cooked through and looked a deep golden, browned color. So, I was a little worried about the fact that we weren’t using any sort of fat (butter, oil) to cook the chicken and shrimp seeing as we only used the dry Cajun seasoning with no oil to season the meat too, but I trusted the process and prayed to the Nonstick Pan Gods and it actually worked out. The shrimp and chicken browned nicely, didn’t stick to my pan and still ended up appropriately moist (ew, I know, it’s a gross word) and juicy.
Step 4: Gettin’ Saucy
While my chicken and shrimp were browning, I prepped my sauce knowing that that would be coming up soon. I don’t think I ever would have thought to use almond milk to create a creamy sauce while still keeping the WW points value/calories low. It obviously makes sense, but I just would never have thought of that if I hadn’t started WW, and I just think it’s really smart. Before starting this journey, I would not have even thought twice about reaching for the heavy cream to make a cream sauce for a pasta, but now I just can’t justify those points. So, moral of the story is that Geri is really smart, and I love the thought of using a low point “cream” more or less and thickening with cornstarch, so you’re basically doing double duty with a slurry and a cream sauce, and adding in the flavor in a smart, low calorie way.
Step 5: Deglaze & Finish The Sauce
So, once your shrimp and chicken are all set and happy, hanging out on a plate (or some other vessel) off to the side, there will likely be some “brown bits” stuck to your pan. The next step is to pour in the half cup of chicken stock and stir, allowing the chicken stock to basically loosen and absorb the brown bits. This is called deglazing. It’s important because it adds a depth of flavor to whatever kind of sauce you’re making. This will serve as the base to your sauce.
Once your pan is deglazed, you can add in the contents of the measuring cup to finish the sauce. The point is that it needs to thicken up a bit, so you do have to let it simmer to activate the cornstarch to let it do what it’s supposed to do.
Step 6: Add Everything Into The Sauce & Get Ready for Greatness
First, you start with the sundried tomatoes. Now, maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but this is my blog, so I guess I get to say whatever I want; if/when I make this again, I’m not going to add these. I sliced them up before adding them because they seemed huge even though the recipe instructions didn’t really mention anything about any sort of preparation for the sundried tomatoes other than to get ones not packed in oil (obviously to reduce the points). I just don’t know that they really added a whole lot, and both Jeff and I picked them out as I was eating my pasta, so it seems kind of a waste to include them if we aren’t even going to eat them. Take that information with whatever grain of salt you wish.
Next, I added in the green onions, saving just a little bit for the very end to sprinkle over for the ‘gram (and for this post).
Lastly, I added the parmesan cheese. And I heard the angels sing. Because what’s better than cheese? Nothing, that’s what. This is the piece de resistance that makes this that cheesy, almost alfredo-y taste and texture for the sauce and how it coats the pasta and just makes your mouth and tummy so happy.
If we are being honest, I was a little worried my sauce broke a little bit but everything tasted how I hoped it would, so maybe it was fine. I’m still not sure. I would like to make it again and see if the appearance before the protein and pasta gets added back in changes. Oh, yeah, that’s what happens next. Chicken and shrimp and Pasta. It’s almost go time.
Step 7: Plate The Pasta & Eat It
Guys, when I saw this pasta on Instagram, I saved it because even though I’m usually a pansy when it comes to spicy things, I had high hopes that I would enjoy this pasta. I love a cream sauce with pasta, that’s just my style. I had previously resigned myself to the fact that my alfredo-loving self would never be whole again because I wasn’t willing to spend the points and that it was likely just not in the cards for me to have a creamy pasta and still be within my points for the day. Boy, I was wrong about that. And while I enjoy being right most of the time, and I usually am, I was so, so happy to be wrong.
Look at it. Isn’t it pretty?
Oh, sure, I’m a naughty because I did sprinkle on some extra cheese at the end. Sue me. It didn’t add to the point value because I was sneaky about it, okay? I added ¼ cup fat free mozzarella right at the end because ¼ cup fat free mozzarella is 0 points, and that just seems silly to skip this step. When you can have more cheese with zero consequence, wouldn’t you?
Difficulty/Approachability: Easy. In terms of ingredients and prep work, there’s nothing on here that’s too intimidating or a crazy long list of stuff you wouldn’t already have laying around. I mean, I had to go get almond milk and Cajun seasoning, but just about everything else I keep stocked in my pantry, fridge, and/or freezer on the reg. Additionally, things get cooked in phases as opposed to all at once, so the sequence of events is manageable, and it doesn’t take a super long time. I would say the recipe is accurate in terms of timing of about 35 minutes total. Not bad.
Taste: The taste is great, and not just for “diet food” – I promise. Like, if I wasn’t doing weight watchers, I may have looked at the almond milk and been a little bit surprised or felt weird about that and maybe just been like Nope, Heavy Cream It Is! But it’s legit. It’s got a good, deep, rich flavor. The Cajun seasoning is spicy, but it’s not something I would say is overpowering or should deter you from making it if you’re sensitive to spice. It’s got exactly the amount of kick you’d want it to have so you knew it was a “Cajun” flavored pasta dish. I really enjoyed it.
What would I do differently? I mentioned it up above, but I would leave the sundried tomatoes out. I don’t know that they deepened the flavor of the sauce enough for it to make a difference, and I picked them out when I ate it, so that’s that. Nixed. Bye. That’s pretty much it, though. It was a great pasta dish.
Would I make this again? 10/10 yes. When I made this with regular pasta (not high protein or whole wheat pasta) it clocked in at 8 points per the WW Recipe Creator. That’s really, really good for a creamy pasta. Additionally. The serving size on this is HUGE, and, as a volume eater (#selfawareness), that’s important to me. The whole thing gets broken down into 4 servings, which means that each serving is about a cup and a half, and that’s just something I can’t get over. Additionally, it heats up pretty nicely, and that’s a bonus too because when the hubs travels, I hate cooking for one, so leftovers work out pretty great here. It’s a bonus when the food actually tastes good enough that I’m not mad about eating it a couple days in a row, too. This hit the mark in several places, so, yes, absolutely, I will make this again.
Creamy Cajun Pasta
- 8 oz Pasta (I used Barilla Farfalle, No. 65)*
- 2 pounds shrimp & chicken (I used 1 lb chicken & 1 lb shrimp, but you could use any ratio you prefer, or all of one or the other)
- 3 tsp Cajun Seasoning (I used Spice Island Brand's Organic Cajun Seasoning Blend)
- 1 1/2 cups Almond Milk (I used Almond Breeze Unsweetened Original)
- 1/2 cup Fat Free Chicken Stock
- 2 tsp Cornstarch
- 1/2 cup Sun-dried Tomatoes, not in oil **
- 2 Green Onions (chopped/sliced thin and reserve some of the greens for garnish)
- 1/2 tsp Dried Basil
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt (less if using table salt)
- 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain & set aside.
- Season meats with 2 tsp cajun spice mix. Sear in a large (nonstick) skillet in batches, careful not to crowd the pan, to ensure they brown. Set aside once cooked through.
- In the same skillet, add the chicken stock and deglaze your pan, allowing chicken stock to simmer and scraping up the brown bits from cooking the meat.
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine almond milk, cornstarch, remaining 1 tsp cajun seasoning, basil, and garlic powder. Add this mixture to the chicken stock in the pan and allow to simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Add in sun-dried tomatoes, green onions and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to low and simmer until thickened a little bit more, about 3 minutes.
- Turn heat to low again and add in the parmesan cheese. Stir to combine. Add in meats and stir to coat. Add in pasta and toss pasta with meat and sauce, stir to coat the pasta in the sauce. Cook until everything is warmed and heated through, and sauce has been absorbed into the pasta and coats each noodle.