One Pot Cajun Chicken Pasta: A crazy delicious, quick, and easy one pot meal filled with sautéed spicy chicken, mushrooms, and red peppers in a spicy, creamy tomato sauce.
Have I told you lately how I love to cozy up with a bowl of warm food? It’s that time of year again when we wake to downright chilly New England mornings.
And frankly, all I can think about on these 40 and 50 degree mornings is layering up in a flannel shirt and what kind of pasta I want to tuck into for dinner at night. Because it’s definitely pasta season, isn’t it?
This is all said with one caveat, of course. I’m wearing flip-flops on these chilly mornings with my jeans and flannels so I’m not quite ready to switch my iced lattes over to hot lattes just yet. And because it’s not OFFICIALLY the first day of fall yet either, not a single pumpkin spice latte has passed through my lips.
That’s for next week.
ANYWAY. This one pot cajun chicken pasta was a meal that’s been a long time coming. I fell hard for the thrill of the one pot meal a few years back when I made this super easy one pot creamy sausage pasta.
And for good reason, so did you guys. It’s been the single most popular recipe on this site over the past 4 years, just slightly edging out the best all butter pie crust ever.
I’ve also been wanting to revamp my Louisiana chicken pasta recipe that I first made back in 2009 as a copycat recipe to the Cheesecake Factory’s dish for what seems like ages. Or you know, 10 YEARS.
So building on my love of one pot meals, I decided it was time to take the plunge to update that recipe to “modern” times.
Before I dive into the deets about the recipe, let’s start with a couple of basics about one pot meals. I’m doing this because many of the people I’ve talked to in real life about one pot pasta (not my internet friends) don’t really know what a one pot pasta dish actually is.
What is One Pot Pasta?
In the most basic terms, a one pot pasta is a meal that’s cooked entirely in one pot or pan. Or a crock pot. Or an Instant Pot. You get what I mean, right?
The pasta in a one pot pasta recipe is cooked in the sauce along with your other meal ingredients (usually some type of meat and some chopped veggies).
What’s the Big Deal About these One Pot Pasta Meals?
The hype behind this “modern” method of cooking pasta is two-fold. First, you’re only dirtying 1 pot to make you meal. No more cooking the pasta in a stock pot while you make a sauce in a separate pot.
In my book, less dishes is ALWAYS a good thing.
Second, because you’re cooking the pasta directly in the sauce for your meal, the starch from the pasta cooks into and helps to thicken the sauce as it cooks.
Normally when you cook pasta and drain it off, all of the starch is washed down the drain with the pasta water. For these one pot pasta meals, you’re using the starch as part of the recipe.
Waste not, want not!
How to Make One Pot Cajun Chicken Pasta
To make this easy one pot cajun chicken pasta recipe, you’re going to start by sautéing a few boneless chicken breasts that have been coated in an easy to make cajun seasoning. Once cooked through, take them out of the pan and cover them loosely with foil on a plate.
Sauté the chopped onions, mushrooms, and red peppers in the same pan you cooked the chicken in. Then you’ll add some of that rock star-level cajun seasoning to the veggies and let the heat from the pan bloom all of those amazing spicy flavors.
Next, you’ll start adding the liquid ingredients: diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water. A pound of pasta goes into the pan and after you bring the liquid to a boil, you’ll turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and let the pasta cook for about 15 minutes.
While the pasta cooks, slice the chicken and keep it warm under the foil.
After stirring the pasta a few times during those 15 minutes, the pasta will be cooked through. Stir in some heavy cream to finish the sauce off, add the sliced chicken, and you’ve got yourself an awesome meal of this one pot creamy cajun chicken pasta. So easy, right?
What I love About this Cajun Chicken Pasta
It goes without saying that what I love most about this meal is that’s it’s so crazy delicious! The cajun seasoning flavors just make the whole meal pop! It’s a little spicy so you could adjust the heat level if you make your own seasoning or use less of the cajun spice mix if you buy a pre-made mix.
I’m really happy with this revamped version of my original Louisiana chicken pasta from years ago. While all of that bold cajun flavor remains in the dish, I’ve cut out a ton of calories by sautéing the chicken rather than breading and frying it.
And of course, the whole one pot meal deal is always a winner in my book. I’ve got way less time to cook now with a toddler in the house so this is a streamlined and smart way to make a family-friendly dinner.
Less dishes help too, of course!
Lastly, this cajun chicken pasta recipe is another one to add to my list of quick weeknight meals. That means it’s ready to eat in under 30 minutes!
AND it can also be made ahead of time, refrigerated for up to 3 days, and reheated for an even quicker weeknight meal.
So if you haven’t jumped on the one pot pasta train yet, there’s still time. These kinds of meals aren’t going anywhere soon since they’re so easy to make and yield such fabulous results but it’s time to give them a try! You definitely won’t be sorry.
More great one pot recipes on Smells Like Home:
- classic chicken and dumplings
- skillet baked chicken parm meatballs
- caramelized onion and thyme risotto
For the cajun seasoning (see note below):
- 1 tbsp smoked or sweet paprika
- 2 tsp Kosher salt
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp dried thyme
For the cajun chicken pasta:
- 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 ¼ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, lightly pounded or sliced in half through the equator if very thick
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 10 oz white button, cremini, or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 red pepper, sliced into ¼-inch strips (about 1 ½ cups)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- 1 (14 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
- 4 to 5 cups water
- 16 oz dry short pasta shapes, like mini penne
- 4 tbsp heavy cream
- Season both sides of the chicken breasts with a heavy sprinkle of the cajun seasoning (1 tablespoon in total for all of the chicken).
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and saute the chicken for about 7 minutes, flipping after 4 minutes, until browned on both sides and fully cooked to an internal temperature of 165° F. Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate and loosely cover with foil.
- In the same pan, heat the remaining oil and saute the onions until they start to soften, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, peppers and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle in a good pinch of salt and a few cranks of black pepper. Once the mushroom start to release their liquid, stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of the cajun seasoning into the veggies and cook for about 30 seconds. Stir the chicken broth into the pan and scrape up the brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
- Turn the heat to low to reduce the splatter, stir in the tomatoes and their juices, tomato sauce, and 4 cups of water. Once combined, stir in the dry pasta until well-combined.
- Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover. Allow the liquid to simmer, stirring occasionally at first and more frequently towards the end to prevent the pasta from sticking, for about 15 to 17 minutes. If needed, stir in the remaining cup of water a little at a time while the pasta cooks. You want to ensure the pasta is submerged so it can cook. If the liquid starts boiling, reduce the heat to low. You want the liquid at a good simmer but not boiling.
- When the pasta is cooked through, stir in the cream. Allow the cream to heat through for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow the dish to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Store-bought cajun seasoning will work fine if you don't have the ingredients listed here or the time to make a homemade spice mix. My recipe above makes ¼ cup and you'll need that much of a store-bought variety for this pasta recipe.
Feel free to adapt the ingredients as needed! Some suggestions:
- Replace the chicken with shrimp or sausage.
- Half-and-half or Greek yogurt can easily replace the heavy cream.
- Add some fresh greens like spinach, kale, or chard which not only adds a whole lot of color, but they boost the nutritional factor as well.
- Add peas instead of or in addition to the suggested greens above.
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