This creamy Cajun pasta recipe combines poached, shredded chicken and sautéed slices of Andouille sausage with a creamy, chicken stock based roux seasoned with an assortment of Cajun spices. This dish is similar to the classic Cajun dish gumbo – it’s started with a roux with shredded chicken and sausage, but rather than being served with rice this recipe has the added benefit of penne pasta.
The sauce is cooled down by the cream in the sauce as well as the garnish of green onion on top. The chicken is poached so that it is tender enough to be shredded and incorporated into the sauce.
Chicken breasts are simmered in stock until cooked through then shredded. While I prefer using chicken breasts if I am shredding the meat, boneless, skinless chicken thighs can be used as well. Shredded store-bought rotisserie chicken can be used as a shortcut.
Cooking the chicken in stock gives it more chicken flavor though it can be simmered in water or chicken broth instead. Chicken stock is also added to the roux to create the sauce which is then finished off with cream for a flavorful sauce.
The sauce is seasoned with a homemade Cajun seasoning blend. I use paprika, thyme, oregano, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to develop a complex, slightly spicy flavor in the creamy sauce.
A roux is a mixture of fat, in this recipe I use butter, and flour. I use it to create the base of the cajun cream sauce in this recipe. It works to thicken the sauce easily.
Shallots have a mild, slightly sweet flavor. If needed yellow or red onion can be swapped in. The general rule of thumb is 3 medium shallots equal 1 medium onion. The shallots are cooked in the butter and mixed with the spices before the flour is added to make the roux.
Heavy cream is the thick part of the milk that rises to the top with between 36-40% fat. Whipping cream has slightly less with 30% fat.
Andouille sausage is a smoked sausage made from pork that is prominent in Cajun cuisine. This pasta gets just a little kick from the cayenne and Andouille sausage as well as a slight smoky flavor.
Bell peppers are sweet with mild flavor. They don’t have any heat but add a sweet flavor, especially when sautéed. The colors of bell pepper differ based on maturity – it comes down to the time of harvesting. Bell peppers are a backbone of Cajun cooking, especially paired with onion and celery – referred to as the “holy trinity”.
Collard greens are commonly used in Southern cooking. The tough greens hold up well to simmering – even cooked over time they don’t get mushy.
I use penne pasta in this recipe because the noodles hold the sauce well. It can be substituted with other pasta shape of choice like orecchiette, farfalle, elbows or ziti.
Green onion is used to garnish this pasta to both add color and a mild, fresh flavor.
Add the chicken breasts and stock to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cover, letting cook until the chicken is cooked through and tender.
Remove the chicken from the pan and let sit until cooled to the touch. Shred the chicken and set aside.
In a small bowl stir together the paprika, oregano, smoked paprika, cayenne and thyme.
In a large saucepan over medium heat add the butter and melt. Add the shallots and sauté until tender.
Add the spices then stir in the flour and stir to combine, letting it cook until the spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Whisk in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium low and simmer until the mixture has thickened. Then whisk in the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir the shredded chicken into the sauce.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the sausage and peppers, cooking until the sausage is golden brown on both sides. Then add the collard greens and sauté until the collard greens are wilted.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Salt the water and return to a boil. Add the penne pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and return the penne pasta to the pot.
Add the Cajun sauce as well as the sausage and collard greens and stir to combine. Divide among serving bowls and garnish with green onion.
Store leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To reheat pasta add to a medium pot or large skillet with 1/4 cup of water. Cover and heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, about 8 minutes.
Here are a few Cajun and creole recipes to try if you enjoy this creamy cajun chicken pasta:
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