Cheesy Cajun Pasta

Rotini pasta mixed with diced red and green bell pepper and slices of sausage, covered in a cheese sauce and put in a bowl

You know, I’ve been craving Cajun food like crazy for a while, and I only realized why last night—yesterday was Mardi Gras. I don’t celebrate the holiday, but I can certainly appreciate the flavors inspired by New Orleans at this time of year. The lively, rich, spicy flavors feel like fireworks in your mouth, and the food feels like a celebration in itself!

When it comes to the pasta in this dish, look for a short shape that will hold on to the cheese sauce easily. I used whole wheat rotini because we have a lot of it on hand, but penne, macaroni, or even pasta shells will all be great for something like this!

Cheesy Cajun Pasta isn’t exactly classic Cajun fare, but it does incorporate some of the most ubiquitous flavors—the sweet peppers, the onions, the Andouille sausage, and the cayenne pepper—in a way that will be accessible to a wider audience. Think of this spin on mac and cheese as a way to get your toes in the water. 😉

Cheesy Cajun Pasta

2 TBSP oil

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 oz Andouille sausage, sliced on a bias

1 lb rotini

2 TBSP butter

2 TBSP flour

1 1/4 cups milk

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauté pan on medium heat, cook the onions with the oil until translucent. Add in the peppers and garlic, and stir and cook until the peppers are tender. Make a well in the center of the pan, and sear the sausage on both sides. Stir the mixture together, and set aside.

Boil rotini in salted water for according to directions, until al dente. Strain the pasta (but don’t rinse it! The extra starch will help the sauce to stick to the noodles.) and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour to make a roux, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the roux starts to turn a light brown. Add in the paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper; stir and cook for another minute. Whisk in the milk, and stir together until smooth. Add in the cheese, and stir together until the cheese is thoroughly melted (if the sauce is too thick, thin it out with some of the reserved pasta water). Stir in the sausage and pepper mix, then gently fold in the rotini until the noodles are evenly coated in the sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves up to 4.


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