Lightened Up Cajun Pasta

11 Sep

Christopher loves spicy food. He puts fresh cayenne or jalapeno peppers from the garden in almost every meal lately. He puts sriracha sauce on almost everything. And he orders hot wings, jalapeno burgers and other flamin’ fare at restaurants almost every time.

I wanted to use up some things we had in the pantry and fridge—chipotle sausages, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, cream cheese and pasta—and I wanted a hearty, yet quick supper for after our long run Monday.

Enter: Cajun pasta.

Spicy for him. Satisfying and chock full of protein, fiber and vitamins for her.

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Lightened Up Cajun Pasta for Two

This hearty dish packs a spicy, satisfying punch. The sweet red, orange and yellow peppers play and creamy whole-wheat spaghetti noodles play nicely against the spicy sauce. It’s hot, though, so have a glass of milk on standby!

Ingredients

4 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 sausages, sliced (Cajun or Andouille sausages are preferred, but any spicy sausage will work)

1 1/2 cups sliced red, orange and yellow bell peppers

1 jalapeno, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup milk

2 tablespoons cream cheese

1 tablespoon flour

2/3 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons white wine

1/3 cup diced tomatoes or salsa

2-3 teaspoons Cajun spice blend (1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/4 teaspoon dried basil)

2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish

Directions

Cook the pasta according to package directions, then drain the pasta and set it aside.

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(I used these delicious Wisconsin-made sausages, which we sampled at the Dixon Beer Festival in June.)

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan and set it aside.

In the meantime, in the pitcher of a blender, combine the milk, cream cheese and flour and blend until smooth.

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Lower the heat under the skillet to medium and add the garlic, bell peppers and jalapeno pepper. Sauté until the peppers are tender and starting to brown, about 8-10 minutes.

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Add the wine and chicken broth and use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any brown bits. Add the milk slurry, tomatoes or salsa and Cajun spice blend and stir until everything is well combined.

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Allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, about 5-8 minutes.

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Add in the cooked pasta and browned sausage and toss to coat everything with the sauce.

Holy hotness, Batman! We loved this dish. Christopher didn’t mind the heat, but I did; I liked the flavor, but my face was flushed and my mouth was burning. The hearty spaghetti noodles stand up well to the spicy sauce, while the sausage gives the dish some saltiness and the peppers provide some sweetness.

Most Cajun pasta recipes have such a heavy sauce, but mine—with just a little milk, chicken broth and a measly 2 tablespoons of cream cheese—is very flavorful and perfectly coats the pasta and peppers.

Most dishes call for chicken, which would totally work in place of the sausage in this recipe, and many also call for red onions, which would work, too, but would provide another harsh bite.

This dish warms from the inside out, so it is a perfect weeknight dinner for the fall.

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