This is one of my favorite go-to “oh crap, I haven’t planned dinner today” meals. I always have a supply of frozen bell peppers leftover from summer market raids or, in the case of this year, our own garden bumper crop, so it’s a good last minute sort of meal that’s still friggin’ delicious. Make it vegetarian, make it vegan, make it meaty – do whatever you want. I’ll probably be making a pan of it in the coming weeks.
About that Cajun seasoning – if you don’t have something labeled as Cajun seasoning (and I didn’t, until a bottle of it was gifted to us), I used a combination of 1 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp black pepper, and 1 tsp oregano (the salt, onion, and garlic are already in the recipe, so I don’t add it to a homemade Cajun mix).
One last warning – this recipe may fill your kitchen with (delicious-smelling) smoke. Open the windows and enjoy!
Cajun Pepper Pasta
You will need:
- 12 oz pasta of choice (I like whole wheat. Long or short pasta is fine)
- 2 c sliced bell peppers
- 1 small red onion or shallot, thinly sliced (about 1/2 c)
- 2 tbsp neutral oil or bacon fat
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning (see note)
- 1/4-1/2 c cream, half and half, or whole milk (you can even use evaporated milk here, or coconut milk if you want it vegan)
- 1 c chopped protein of choice (tofu, chicken, sausage – whatever your heart desires!) (optional)
- 1 c sliced mushrooms (optional)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a large cast iron skillet or other skillet, heat oil or bacon fat on medium high heat until hot and nearly smoking. Cook onions and peppers until softened and slightly charred, about 5-7 minutes, salting and peppering to taste.
- Meanwhile, bring a medium pot (3 or 4 quart) of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Save 1 cup of the pasta water, and drain pasta.
- Reduce heat to medium, and add garlic and Cajun seasoning, cooking for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. (If vegetables stick to the bottom of the pan, you can add a bit of pasta water, regular water, stock, or beer to deglaze the pan – pour the liquid into the hot pan and scrape the bottom until the bits come loose.)
- If using protein and/or mushrooms, remove all veggies from the pan into a bowl. Add 1 tbsp more oil or fat to the pan (if using sausage, don’t add any oil or fat), and fry the protein and/or mushrooms over medium heat until fully cooked, about 5-7 minutes, salting and peppering to taste.
- Add all ingredients back into the pan (if you removed them), and add cream. Cook until the cream is slightly thickened and all ingredients are hot, about 3-4 minutes. Add cooked pasta and coat with the sauce, adding pasta water to thin the sauce if desired. (Remember, pasta water also adds salt, so use it wisely!)