Creamy Cajun Shrimp Pasta

published Dec 16, 2022
Cajun Shrimp Pasta Recipe

Take your dinners up a notch with a minimalist creamy penne pasta with rich Cajun flavor and juicy morsels of andouille sausage and plump shrimp.

Serves4

Prep20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook20 minutes

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Credit: Maria Do

This Cajun shrimp dinner delivers all the comforts of a creamy pasta dish, with a smoky Southern kick. It has maximum Cajun flavor with minimal effort. In fact, keeping it simple is exactly how I learned to make Cajun shrimp pasta when I was growing up in Louisiana. No need for a fancy cream sauce with flour, butter, or tomatoes (especially because those ingredients would make it French Creole, not Cajun!). For the cream sauce, all you need is heavy cream, Cajun seasoning, and pasta water. The sauce will thicken up just beautifully without the added frills! 

Another perk: Because there’s no flour in the cream sauce, the pasta can be swapped out for gluten-free noodles. You can also add your choice of stir-fried vegetables like mushrooms or bell peppers.   

If You’re Going Make Cajun Shrimp Pasta, a Few Tips

  • The garlic is already doubled. Every true Cajun will tell you that they double the garlic in every recipe they cook, and I am one of them! So I took the liberty of calling for four cloves of garlic for the extra garlicky flavor we Cajuns love. 
  • Don’t skip the Andouille. Hands-down, every great Cajun pasta recipe has Andouille sausage. Doesn’t matter if it’s paired with shrimp or chicken — andouille is the common denominator in a delicious smoky Cajun pasta. Luckily, Andouille is widely available these days at large grocers like Sprouts, Walmart, and Target.
  • Go for jumbo Gulf shrimp. If you can get your hands on it, jumbo Gulf shrimp for a Cajun shrimp pasta is quintessential. I’ve discovered during my time living in Colorado and now California that Walmart reliably stocks Gulf shrimp and other seafood like Louisiana crawfish. Sprouts often has Gulf shrimp in stock as well. In terms of size, larger shrimp are better because they are more succulent and do not overcook as easily as smaller ones.
  • Serve immediately after cooking. This pasta is best served immediately after cooking, as the cream sauce will be at its peak consistency. If it cools and you need to reheat, add a few tablespoons of water or cream to the skillet and cover on medium heat to bring the cream sauce back to life.

Cajun Shrimp Pasta Recipe

Take your dinners up a notch with a minimalist creamy penne pasta with rich Cajun flavor and juicy morsels of andouille sausage and plump shrimp.

Prep time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1

    medium shallot or 1/4 medium yellow onion

  • 4 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/2 medium bunch

    fresh parsley

  • 2 ounces

    Parmesan cheese (or 1/2 cup pre-shredded), plus more for garnishing

  • 6 to 7 ounces

    andouille sausage

  • 1 pound

    raw jumbo shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined (preferably Gulf shrimp)

  • 1 tablespoon

    Cajun seasoning or homemade

  • 8 ounces

    dried fettuccine or penne pasta

  • 2 tablespoons

    neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable, divided

  • 1 1/2 cups

    heavy cream

  • Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, finely chop 1 medium shallot or 1/4 medium yellow onion, and 4 garlic cloves (about 1 tablespoon); place both in a small bowl. Pick the leaves from 1/2 medium bunch fresh parsley and finely chop until you have 1/2 cup. Shred 2 ounces Parmesan on the smaller holes of the box grater (about 1/2 cup).

  2. Cut 6 to 7 ounces andouille sausage crosswise into 1/3-inch thick rounds. Peel and devein 1 pound raw jumbo shrimp if needed. Pat the shrimp dry and place in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning and toss to evenly coat.

  3. Add 8 ounces dried fettuccine or penne pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package instructions until al dente, 8 to 12 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta.

  4. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of the neutral oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until some of the fat renders out and it’s golden-brown on the outside, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl.

  5. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the shrimp in a single layer and cook until pink and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the shrimp to the bowl with the sausage.

  6. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon neutral oil and shallot and garlic to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are translucent and garlic is golden-brown, about 2 minutes.

  7. Add the Parmesan, 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and 1/2 of the parsley. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Return the shrimp, sausage, and any accumulated juices to the skillet. Add the pasta and toss until coated and warmed through and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.

  8. Remove the skillet from the heat. If the sauce is too thick, toss in more of the reserved pasta water as needed. Taste and season with kosher salt as needed: If the Cajun seasoning was salt-free, start with 1 1/2 teaspoons, then taste and add more as needed. Garnish with the remaining parsley and more Parmesan cheese.

Recipe Notes

Sausage substitution: Another sausage such as Polish kielbasa can be used, though it will not have the smokiness of andouille.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. To reheat, microwave covered for 90 seconds. Alternately, reheat on a stove top on medium-high heat for 5 minutes with a few tablespoons of water, milk, or cream to loosen up the sauce.