By Melissa Wickline
What’s more delicious and filling than a bowl of spicy, warm pasta? Enter the Poor Man’s Cajun Seafood Pasta. If seafood isn’t your thing, add chicken, andouille sausage, roasted broccoli or snow peas. For vegetarians, roasted peppers, fresh spinach, mushrooms, and onions go great with this cream sauce, too.
I call this dish Poor Man’s Cajun Seafood Pasta because of the exchange of expensive crab meat to imitation crab meat. I developed a lot of my favorite recipes while in college on a very tight budget. This sauce’s ingredients are inexpensive, and instead of using real crab meat to top the dish, I still use imitation crab meat, just like the good ole’ days. Why pay $18.00 for a small container of lump crab meat, when you can pay $2.00 for imitation crab meat? It may not be the real thing, but the flavor is very similar.
This dish will become a comforting and delicious meal your family will love. Pair with a nice salad and a baguette loaf and you have an impressive meal. Enjoy!
Cajun Seafood Pasta
1 stick butter for sauce
8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups heavy cream
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons of cajun seasoning (less if you don’t like it spicy)
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (fresh or other)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 lb fettuccine pasta, prepare as directed (angel hair or other favorite works, too)
a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon of ground white pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 lb. raw, deveined shrimp (fresh or frozen)
1 package of Hillshire Farms Polska Kielbasa sausage (if omitting sausage, use more shrimp)
1/2 cup imitation crab meat, diced into small pieces
Place a large pot of salted water on a stove eye. Turn on low to begin warming the water while you prep.
For the Meat Mixture:
Rinse shrimp well and remove any remaining shell bits. Allow to drain well and place in a bowl.
Sprinkle the shrimp with cajun seasoning, a pinch of garlic powder, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Toss all with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or melted butter.
In a large cast iron skillet, add a few drizzles of oil and carefully add the shrimp, searing on both sides. (Shrimp cook extremely fast; this should take no more than 2-3 minutes). Next, add the diced crab meat to the shrimp and combine. When shrimp are pink and seared, remove all from the skillet. Set aside.
Next, sear your diced sausage until browned in the same skillet. Do not remove the bits left behind by the shrimp and crab. Remove from heat.
In the same skillet, add a small knob of butter and gently toss diced onions until caramelized. If using fresh garlic, add to the onion, careful not to cook the garlic too long or too hot, as it will become bitter. Add in a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like the heat. If not, remove the onions and garlic and set aside.
Begin cooking pasta while you finish the sauce. It will take around 12 minutes to reach al dente. Be sure to continually stir pasta as it boils.
For the Sauce:
In a saucepan, melt the stick of butter on low, careful not to brown the butter. Once melted, add the cream cheese.
Keep sauce on low and let the cream cheese soften, using a whisk to check the softness of the mixture. Once the butter and cream cheese are soft, add the heavy cream, onion and garlic mixture, white pepper, Old Bay Seasoning, and more cajun seasoning, constantly tasting the sauce to reach your spice level. Simmer for 15-20 minutes over low heat, stirring often to scrape down the sides.
Add the mozzarella cheese to the sauce and gently whisk. Remove pan from heat, and add the parmesan cheese, whisking again until smooth.
TIP: We like the sauce thick, but if you like it creamier, add a little chicken stock to thin out the sauce before removing from heat, and keep whisking until you reach your desired consistency. Drain the pasta and pour it on a platter. Cover pasta with alfredo sauce, add sausage, crab, and shrimp on top. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and black pepper. Enjoy!