Cajun fare meets fettuccine alfredo in this creamy Cajun Shrimp Pasta recipe! Offering medium heat and colorful bell peppers alongside juicy shrimp makes for a recipe the whole family will devour!
I ended up working a few hours on Sunday to “get ahead”…and by that I mean “stay afloat”. While this tends to be a slower time of year in the business of “elective healthcare”, that has not seemed to be the case this year. Of course this comes at a time of swim season chaos and my brilliant idea to pursue entry into nursing school. I’m a glutton for punishment, what can I say?! Honestly, though, this mama just needs a good night of sleep. I need my brain to shut off for a straight 8 hours and none of this middle-of-the-night freak out where I think of everything I need to do the next day. Amid the craziness of the past few weeks, quick dinners have been the name of my game. This one delivered big time! I’m glad my princesses are tolerant of some heat!
ROLL CALL FOR THIS RECIPE
- Lighter Fare: Who doesn’t love a rich, creamy alfredo or heavy cream-based sauce? Decadence! This light, creamy sauce checks all of the boxes for those looking for a Cajun cream sauce that is big on flavor not fat and calories.
- Weekday Warriors: This recipe is on the table in about 30 minutes! Wow your crew with this New Orleans-inspired meal that won’t rob you of precious time on busy weeknights!
- Adaptable: Easily made spicier, more mild, vegetarian, or packed with protein, this recipe is easily adaptable to meet your heat and ingredient preferences.
KEY INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Butter: I love the flavor of butter and seafood, but olive oil works great here, too! Use unsalted butter to eliminate added sodium.
- Shrimp: Buy raw (fresh shrimp or frozen shrimp) that are peeled and deveined. Any size works, however a medium-sized shrimp is quick-cooking yet substancial enough in size to make the dish have wow-factor! If you prefer to substitute in diced chicken breasts, chicken thighs, andouille sausage, smoked sausage, or any combination of these proteins, feel free. Chicken will require a longer cooking time, roughly 7-8 minutes.
- Cajun Seasoning: There are several options that can commonly be found or made, but the seasoning consists of black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika. Some varieties have salt, some have a LOT of salt, and some have no salt. I used a variety that is moderate-low in sodium (Tony’s).
- Onion: Yellow or sweet onion are best, but white or red work fine. You can also omit or use more, if you prefer.
- Bell Peppers: Any combination of colors works! A nice variety and contrast of colorful veggies really makes the dish “pop”!
- Pasta: Choose a pasta shape based on personal preference and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. I used fettuccine noodles, but there is no going wrong. Gluten-free and other pastas are great substitutes – whole wheat, pasta, chickpea pasta, etc.
- Milk: Something with a bit of fat to prevent curdling is best. I used a combination of whole milk and half and half as the base for this creamy pasta sauce, however soy milk, coconut milk, heavy cream, or all half and half work great. You can also reduce the milk or add half chicken stock, chicken broth, or a similar ingredient for a lighter option.
- Parmesan Cheese: Use grated Parmesan as a thickener or as an alternative, nutritional yeast. For the ultimate creamy shrimp pasta with extra creamy sauce, use 2-4 ounces of cream cheese in place of the Parmesan.
VARIATIONS, STORAGE, and TIPS
- Prep the onion and peppers ahead of time to make this meal all the quicker!
- Cajun seasoning has a lot of flavor and can make for spicy food – if you like things low heat, start with half the amount of Cajun seasoning and adjust from there.
- For added heat, consider adding a pinch of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes.
- Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and/or topped with chopped fresh parsley or sliced green onions.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- When reheating leftovers in the microwave, stir half-way through cooking to avoid tough or burnt ends to the noodles.
What is the difference between Cajun seasoning and creole seasoning?
Cajun seasoning offers strong flavors of peppers (white and black pepper), whereas creole seasoning offers more flavors of herbs, such as thyme and oregano.
What Cajun spice brand do you recommend?
Tony Chacheres Lite or Slap Ya Mama are 2 popular grocery store brands that are lower in sodium. Alternatively, you can make your own homemade Cajun seasoning and reduce the salt by at least half.
Why do you recommend using raw shrimp versus cooked?
To avoid rubbery shrimp, buy raw versus cooked and remove from heat when just cooked through as they’ll continue to cook once removing from the heat as well as when added to the pasta at the end. You always want tender, succulent shrimp, never overcooked!
- Lower fat cream sauce with under 9 grams of fat per serving
- Balanced macronutrients: 55 grams of carbohydrate, 24 grams of protein, and less than 9 grams of fat
- Add more fiber by adding a can of diced tomatoes (drained) or using a whole wheat pasta
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 24 oz raw medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 Tbsp Cajun seasoning, divided
- 1 onion, sliced
- 3 bell peppers, cut into 2-inch strips
- 1 lb fettuccine
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup half and half
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shrimp and season with 1/2 tablespoon Cajun seasoning. Cook shrimp until pink and nearly cooked through; remove to a plate and set aside.
- Return the skillet to the heat and increase to medium-high heat. Add the onion; cook for 1 minute. Add the bell peppers and 1/2 tablespoon Cajun seasoning; cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the bell peppers and onions to a plate and set aside.
- To the skillet, add the milk, half and half, Parmesan, and remaining 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning; whisk and cook for 2-3 minutes to thicken.
- Add the pasta, shrimp, and pepper to the skillet (or all ingredients to the pot) over medium heat; toss to coat and heat for 1-2 minutes. Serve hot.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 7 Serving Size: scant 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 392Total Fat: 8.7gCholesterol: 141mgSodium: 852mgCarbohydrates: 55.7gFiber: 3.3gSugar: 7.4gProtein: 24.6g
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