That’s a good motto to live by.
I’ve written posts about Cajun food before, namely Po’ Boys, Gumbo, Jambalaya, and King Cake. Last year, hubby and I espied a new (to us!) restaurant: a Cajun place (a chain) called Razoo’s. Fun atmosphere and tasty food — it was just what we needed, as emotionally and physically drained as last year ended up making us both feel.
Hubby was so enamored of the place and the food, he asked me why I didn’t cook more Cajun dishes.
Well, why not, indeed?
So, I started studying Razzoo’s menu and also Googling, and I’ve since added a few more Cajun dishes to my repertoire.
The one we’ll address today is a versatile dish called Zydeco Pasta. Razzoo’s describes Zydeco Pasta on their luncheon menu as being “Just like on the Big Boy menu, but sized right for lunch. You choose shrimpies or blackn’d chicken, and we’ll do it up right with penne, veggies, and our creole cream sauce.”
Essentially, Zydeco Pasta is penne pasta in an Alfredo sauce seasoned with Cajun seasoning, veggies (the Cajun holy trinity of onion, bell pepper, and celery, along with some garlic — of course! — and some diced tomato added in at the last minute), and, if you desire, the meat of your choice, such as smoked sausage or blackened chicken, fish (salmon fillets work best, but tilapia or any other like-textured fish would work), or shrimp.
You can either make your favorite Alfredo sauce recipe, to which you add Cajun spice, or you can use your favorite packaged Alfredo sauce.
Myself, I use the dried Alfredo sauce mix to which one adds butter and milk, because it’s easy for me to make as much or as little as I want, and it’s easiest for me to lighten up by 1) using less butter than is called for, 2) using lighter milk (I used 1%) than is called for, and 3) always making one more serving than called for on the package. So, for example, if the package says it makes 2 servings; I had half again as much milk and make 3 servings from it. If the package says it makes 3 servings, I add in 1/3 again as much milk and make 4 servings. If I want to make 4 servings (when cooking for hubby, his hearty appetite, and me, this gives us at least one, and sometimes two, lunch servings left), if my packaged Alfredo sauce mix makes 2 servings, I’ll use 1 packet and half the seasoning in another packet to make 4 servings.
For illustrative purposes, here’s an example, using a sauce packet that says it makes 2 servings per packet and calls for 1 cup of milk and 3 tablespoons of butter:
To make 4 servings, I would use:
- 1 1/2 packets of seasoning mix (save the other half for another meal)
- 2 cups of milk (I use 1%)
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of butter
So you see, the math is really very easy.
Use the amount of veggies (celery, bell pepper, and onion) to taste. Stirring in fresh chopped tomato (you could probably use tinned tomatoes, drained, in lieu of the fresh chopped tomato) helps cut the rich taste of the Alfredo sauce, as well as adding to the color and nutrition of the dish.
This is utterly delicious with blackened salmon, tilapia, or shrimp (you could also serve with blackened chicken), but it’s also yummy with Smoked Sausage (I used smoked turkey sausage, and when I can obtain it, I use the hot pepper spicy smoked turkey sausage). Want it meatless? Use a favorite spicy meatless meat substitute (such as Soyrizo), maybe stir in some cooked kidney beans (“red beans”), or just enjoy it as is.
We typically enjoy this with a tossed green salad and either garlic toast or “Frenchy bread” (a la Razzoo’s), which is French (or other good quality) bread sliced, buttered on both sides, and grilled.
Zydeco Pasta smells — and tastes! — so yummy, you’ll be dancing around your kitchen while you make it!
Laissez les bons temps rouler! 🙂
Zydeco Pasta (As noted above, you can easily adjust the number of servings up or down)
NOTE: If serving with Smoked Sausage, you prepare the sausage along with the vegetables as directed in Step 2. If serving with blackened chicken, fish, or shrimp, you prepare the meat separately as described in Step 7.
- Packet(s) of favorite Alfredo Sauce mix OR favorite jarred Alfredo Sauce OR favorite Alfredo Sauce recipe (see comments above)
- Butter as required in recipe (As noted above, I use less than is called for on the package)
- Milk as called for in the recipe (As noted above, I use more than is called for on the package)
- Diced onion to taste (I usually use about a half of a medium onion for 4 servings)
- Sliced celery to taste (I usually use 1 large stalk for 4 servings, sometimes 2)
- Diced bell pepper to taste (I usually use green, but any red, orange, and yellow will work, also; I usually use about 1/2 to 3/4 of a medium to large bell pepper for 4 servings)
- Minced garlic or garlic powder to taste
- Cajun seasoning to taste (homemade or store-bought; I usually use roughly two teaspoons for 4 servings)
- Diced tomato to taste (1 small to medium tomato for 4 servings)
- Penne pasta (2 ounces per serving, which would be 8 ounces for 4 servings; I usually use mezze penne, but any pasta you like will work, including fettuccine or spaghetti)
- Desired meat (Vegetarians, see note above)
- Boil water for pasta and cook as per package directions.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a skillet of appropriate size (typically a deep 10″ or 12″ skillet will work) over medium to medium high heat. Sauté onion until it begins to soften, then add in celery and bell pepper. Add in minced garlic last. NOTE: If making with Smoked Sausage — I use turkey sausage — a 14-16 ounce package of smoked sausage is sufficient for 6 servings. Thinly slice the sausage — on the bias, if you prefer, and FIRST sauté the sausage in the skillet with a bit of hot olive or canola oil, THEN add in some butter and sauté the vegetables as above.
- Once vegetables have begun to soften, if desired, first deglaze the pan with a bit of dry white wine and then, in the same pan, add Alfredo sauce mix and whisk in milk OR add in your jarred favorite Alfredo sauce or homemade Alfredo sauce. Heat as directed on packet or in recipe.
- Stir desired amount of Cajun seasoning into sauce (I typically add a couple of rounded teaspoons for 4 servings).
- Stir cooked, drained pasta into the sauce (if desired, reserve a bit of the pasta water, if need be, to both “loosen” and “thicken” the sauce). At first, it will seem much too loose and runny, but let it simmer for a few minutes on low, stirring occasionally, and you will see it all thicken up nicely.
- Stir in diced tomato.
- If serving with Blackened Chicken or Blackened Salmon, Tilapia, or like fish fillet: Plan on one boneless, skinless chicken breast (4 ounces or so each) or fish fillet (4 ounces or so each) per serving. Lightly oil both sides of the meat, rub with seasoning, and grill or cook on a non-stick griddle or skillet as directed here — of course, it will take a bit longer to cook the chicken. If serving with Blackened Shrimp: Use raw, cleaned, de-veined shrimp with the tails removed. (I purchase mine from the freezer section for convenience and thaw it as per package directions under running water.) You’ll want 12 ounces of shrimp will suffice for 3 – 4 servings, depending upon whether you want 3 or 4 ounces of shrimp per serving. Place shrimp in a disposable Ziploc or similar bag. Drizzle in a two or three teaspoons of oil and shake the bag to cover the shrimp. Spoon in desired amount of blackened seasoning and shake bag about to cover shrimp. Grill, turning once, until done (shrimp will curl) OR sauté in a skillet or on a griddle in a single layer over medium to medium high heat in a small amount (tablespoon or less) of butter or olive or canola oil.
- If serving with blackened fish fillets, I place the whole cooked fillets on top of the pasta. If serving with blackened chicken, you can present it the same way, or you can slice or chop the chicken into more bite-sized pieces and stir into the pasta. If serving with blackened shrimp, I stir the cooked shrimp into the pasta.
- Individuals may dress each serving as desired with their favorite hot sauce.
- Refrigerate leftovers.
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