I am always looking for delicious recipes that bring comfort food to the next level. Nothing says comfort like a creamy chicken pasta. If you are looking for chicken dinner ideas, look no further. I have the best chicken dinner recipe for the winter months: Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta with Andouille Sausage.
This recipe combines warm Cajun spices with velvety, rich cream sauce. Also, an added bonus: the Cajun spice combination that you will mix together to marinate the chicken can be used in any other Cajun recipes of your choosing!
After the chicken marinates, it is browned, along with the andouille sausage. After the meat is browned, a roux is made using fat, flour, and the traditional Cajun "Holy Trinity." A rich cream sauce is made from the roux and tossed with cooked pasta, shredded parmesan cheese, and the browned meat. A splash of lemon juice and a sprinkle of chopped parsley add a bright finishing touch.
The result: A creamy, spicy Cajun chicken pasta that is perfect for a chilly night in.
What is Cajun Chicken Pasta?
So, you may be wondering what Cajun Chicken Pasta actually is!
There are a few key characteristics that make this chicken dinner recipe a Cajun chicken pasta:
- It is made using a homemade spice blend that features many traditional Cajun spices: smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
- This Cajun chicken pasta sauce begins with the "Holy Trinity": finely chopped celery, green onion, and green bell pepper. The "Holy Trinity" is the Cajun version of a mirepoix. A mirepoix is a mixture of finely chopped celery, onion, and carrots used as a flavor base in French cooking (particularly soups and sauces).
- This chicken dinner recipe also features andouille sausage - a traditional spicy Cajun sausage. (Although, if you cannot find andouille sausage at your local grocery store, you can substitute kielbasa).
- Just like any amazing Cajun gumbo, "first, you make a roux." When you make a traditional Cajun roux, you usually slowly cook equal parts fat and flour before adding the Holy Trinity. In my recipe, you cook the Holy Trinity and then make the roux.
How Do You Make Cajun Seasoning From Scratch?
Cajun seasoning, just like any other seasoning, is SO EASY TO MAKE from scratch! If you already have store-bought pre-mixed Cajun seasoning, you can also use it in this recipe. I just prefer to make my seasoning from scratch! Here is my recipe for Cajun seasoning:
- 2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
- 1 Tbsp. onion powder
- 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- ½ Tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 Tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
I like to mix the above spices with ½ of extra virgin olive oil and use it as a marinade for my chicken. If you want your chicken marinade to be extra spicy, add 1 Tsp. of cayenne pepper OR ½ dashes of hot sauce to the marinade!
Don't be afraid to experiment with this spice blend. It is SO YUMMY as a dry rub for ribs. You can also drizzle a bit on salmon before cooking it to give it a spicy Cajun kick!
What is Different About Andouille Sausage?
Andouille sausage is spicy smoked pork sausage. It is typically the sausage of choice in Cajun cooking because it compliments the Cajun flavors perfectly. Andouille sausage is my personal favorite kind of sausage because it adds a smoky, spicy flavor profile to any dish in which you find it.
Although this recipe calls for andouille sausage, you can also substitute Polish sausage (kielbasa) in a pinch. Kielbasa is usually pork or a combination of pork/beef sausage featuring more mild spices. So, if you are cooking for someone who is very sensitive to spicy foods or if you can't find andouille sausage locally, kielbasa would be my recommended substitution.
If you are feeling very ambitious, you can try making your own andouille sausage from scratch. Here's a link from the Food Network website, featuring Emeril Lagassee's Homemade Andouille Sausage.
How to Achieve Depth of Flavor
I think this recipe is a great example of how to build depth of flavor within a dish. The goal of any chef is to create layers of flavor throughout the cooking process - this is why chefs always recommend tasting and seasoning dishes multiple times while cooking a recipe.
First, I start by marinating my chicken for 30 minutes with Cajun seasoning in extra virgin olive oil. Marinating the chicken allows the chicken to really absorb the Cajun flavors before it is seared.
Next, I brown the chicken and andouille sausage in a skillet, which creates a beautiful "fond" on the bottom of the pan. Fond is the formal term for the brown bits at the bottom of a pan. Do NOT clean your pan before making the sauce! Fond is like culinary currency!
Something spectacular happens after the meat is removed from the pan and the Holy Trinity is added, along with some butter and olive oil. The vegetables begin to sweat (exude water) and the fond loosens and mixes with the vegetables. Thus, we have added another layer of complex flavor to the dish!
After the vegetables are flavored and the water has burned off, a sprinkle of flour over the vegetables and then a quick deglaze with beer result in yet another round of flavor.
Finally, the addition of pasta, cheese, meat, and final seasonings bring the whole dish together. If you build flavor in phases, your family and friends will think they are having a Michelin quality meal. Hats off to the chef!
Please note, this post contains affiliate links which means I will receive a small commission on the sale of these items at no cost to you.
All of my posts contain my recommendations for essential tools. I have researched these tools. Many of them are already in my kitchen. The ones that are not come highly rated. I do the research so you don’t have to and I only recommend high-quality tools.
If you are just starting to furnish your kitchen with tools or if you are looking to expand your kitchen toolkit, be sure to reference Expert Guide: Equip Your Kitchen for Less Than $200. This guide contains links to all of the equipment items I recommend for a basic kitchen set up.
My essential tools when making this Cajun chicken pasta recipe include the following:
Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta with Andouille Sausage
For the Cajun Marinade
- 2 tbsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp. onion powder
- 1 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 tbsp. dried oregano
- 1 tbsp. dried thyme
- 1 tbsp. salt
- ½ tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ cup olive oil extra virgin
For the Cajun Chicken Pasta
- 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts cubed
- 12 oz. andouille sausage sliced to ¼ inch thickness
- 1 lb. cooked pasta I like to use fettucine for this recipe, but it will work with any pasta - for added flavor, boil pasta in water with 2-3 tbsp. of salt.
- 1 cup celery finely chopped
- 1 cup yellow onion finely chopped (white onion will also work)
- 1 cup green bell pepper finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tbsp. flour all purpose
- 1 cup beer I use a light beer here, like a lager
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream or half and half
- 5 oz. parmesan cheese shredded
- 1 large lemon juiced
- ½ cup green onion chopped
- 2 tbsp. parsley chopped (I like flat leaf, but you can use curly)
- 2 tbsp. butter unsalted, divided
- 2 tbsp. olive oil extra virgin, divided
- salt and pepper to taste
Marinate the Chicken
- Place chicken in a gallon zipper bag or an airtight plastic container. Mix together the marinade ingredients and pour over chicken, covering thoroughly. Seal container and marinate the chicken at room temperature for 30 minutes. (You may also marinate for longer - up to 24 hours - but place in the refrigerator if you choose to do this.)
Brown the Meat
- Melt 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of a large skillet set to medium-high heat.
- When the butter is melted, brown the chicken, in batches, until it is thoroughly cooked, about 8-10 minutes. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan.
- After the chicken is browned, brown the andouille sausage in the same pan for 4-5 minutes. Set all the meat and their juices aside.
Make the Pasta
- Bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions. Set aside.
Make the Sauce
- In the same skillet you browned the chicken and sausage (with beautiful brown bits on the bottom), melt 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil.
- Add chopped celery, onion, and green bell pepper and sweat the vegetables, about 3-4 minutes. Reduce the temperature to medium heat.
- When the vegetables begin to release their juices, use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Continue to cook until the water is evaporated, about 3 minutes.
- Add minced garlic and cook for 1 more minute on medium heat.
- Increase the temperature to medium-high heat and sprinkle vegetables with flour. Cook for 1 minute.
- Deglaze the pan with beer and then chicken broth, scraping up any remaining brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for 5-6 minutes. The sauce should thicken slightly.
Finish the Dish
- Add cooked pasta, chicken/sausage and their juices to the sauce. Stir in parmesan cheese and the juice of 1 lemon.
- Top pasta with chopped green onion and parsley. Serve immediately.