As many of you know, we are currently living in my big brother's home for the summer with his beautiful wife and three kiddos while our first home is finished being built. They have the most gorgeous kitchen! To make things hopefully a little easier, we decided to trade off dinners each night, and trade every other Sunday. So I cook T, TH, S, and my sister-in-law does M, W, F. It's been great, only, I get a little antsy around dinner time when it's not my day to cook (feel like I'm forgetting something or just out of place having dinner cooked for us). She is an amazing cook, and I've already learned a lot in her kitchen from her (I mean, she got me to eat fish for once, and go back for seconds for crying out loud).
I decided to try this dish on a particular Sunday when they were going to be away with family, and it was going to be just us for dinnertime. I've always loved a little spice on my chicken, and Cajun is such a fun flavor to pair with soft penne and the most velvety garlic cream sauce you've ever had. The best part: it's CRAZY easy to make. My boys all loved it (minus the tomatoes for my oldest son, though). It was definitely a hit and one we'll throw on the menu again sometime soon. Hungry, yet? Let's get going on this beauty...
First, I usually split up 2 or 3 chicken breasts up between the 4 of us. I'll thaw maybe 2 and then slice them in half down the middle (long-ways) so I end with with what looks like 4 thin chicken breast pieces. They cook faster, and we can always fill up on the sides of veggies and fruits instead of a giant slab of meat (which I'm never opposed to, btw). Using a large baggie makes for less of a mess when adding all the seasoning to these beauties! I threw in the chicken breasts into a large Ziploc, tossed in the seasonings and oil, shook it around for a minute and called it good. After a quick saute in the pan to a good 165 degrees, the chicken was quickly done.
Just like any quick meal around dinnertime, multi-tasking has to be your friend. So while the chicken was on the stove smelling uh-mazing, I started boiling my salted water for my penne pasta (always salt your water, it makes the pasta actually taste much better - even my husbands
"favorite" multi-grain pasta). And while that pasta was cooking, I made my sauce. That's how the under-25-minute dinner is done, my friends! The sauce (which is all pooled in the bottom of the pan in all these photos, darn!) comes together very quickly. Quick butter melt, garlic saute, heavy cream stir-in, lemon zest, and a handful of Parmesan cheese. Really, this dinner couldn't get any easier! SO incredibly yummy. We topped ours with some fresh tomatoes, a little more lemon zest, some fresh Italian parsley from my sister-in-law's garden (thank you, if you're reading, Bethany!), and another sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. I'm always on the lookout for another easy weeknight meal that still tastes-like-you-actually-had-time-to-cook, and this one has quickly shot up to the top of the list. Enjoy!
Cajun Chicken Pasta
makes 4 servings
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half to make 4 flat pieces
3 T olive oil, divided
1 1/2 T cajun seasoning
8oz penne pasta
2 T unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 C heavy cream
1/2 t lemon zest
1/4 C freshly grated parmesan cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 roma tomatoes, diced
2-3 T chopped fresh Italian parsley
1. Add chicken, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cajun seasoning to a large gallon-sized bag. Shake around to coat the pieces of chicken thoroughly.
2. In a large satay pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon over medium high heat, Add the chicken pieces, and let cook for about 6 minutes before flipping to the other side to finish cooking (finished when the inside of the fleshiest part is 165 degrees). Set aside and keep warm.
3. Meanwhile, cook penne pasta until al dente according to directions on the package. Drain well and then set aside.
4. While pasta and chicken are cooking, make the sauce: melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Then add in the garlic, and cook for about 1 minute until garlic is fragrant. Whisk in heavy cream gradually and toss in the lemon zest. Cook for about 2 minute while whisking often. Stir in parmesan. Taste, add in salt and pepper to your liking.
5. Stir in the pasta, top with the cooked cajun-spiced chicken, and garnish with tomatoes, parsley, and another sprinkle of parmesan. Serve immediately, and enjoy!
Recipe source: Baking with Blondie