Creamy Cajun Pasta packed with veggies in a luxurious, flavor-packed tomato cream sauce. Weeknight dinner just got much more exciting! You'd never guess this pasta is easy to make and dairy free. It has a nice kick but isn't overly spicy. Satisfying on its own and also a great canvas for adding your favorite protein, like shrimp or chickpeas.
Oh the glory that is this flavor bomb of a pasta dish! You know those nights when all you want is a steamy bowl of super cozy noodles smothered in a creamy sauce you could very well bathe in? Yeah, we're there.
- Cashews: Raw cashews form the amazingly creamy, velvety smooth base of our sauce. They add healthy fats and fiber in place of traditional heavy cream or cream cheese in cajun pasta.
- Pasta: The star of the show. I like a mild one like white pasta or brown rice pasta here so the flavor of the sauce can really shine. You could also use chickpea pasta for more fiber and protein! I find whole wheat pasta has too strong of a flavor here.
- Fire-roasted tomatoes: We're blending a can of tomatoes with cashews to form our cream sauce. This is the method I use in my Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Basil Cream Sauce!
- Onion: To start building flavor. I used red onion, but yellow or white onion work great as well.
- Bell peppers: Use whatever colors you like to bring vibrancy to the dish. I used a frozen blend of pre-sliced bell peppers from Trader Joe's.
- Mushrooms: For some umami and texture. I like cremini or shiitake for the most flavor.
- Garlic: We're using both garlic powder in the spice mix and fresh garlic in the veggies to add tons of aromatic flavor.
- Parsley: Mostly for a pop of color. You can also use chopped spinach.
- Spices: A tasty blend of smoked paprika, oregano, garlic, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper. You can omit the cayenne if you're super sensitive to spice but I think it adds so much!
How to make (step-by-step)
Place cashews in a small bowl and cover with water. Cook pasta. Drain and reserve 2 cups of pasta water. Return pasta to pot.
Whisk together Cajun seasoning ingredients in a small bowl.
In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add onion, peppers, mushrooms, and Cajun seasoning. Sauté for 8 minutes, stirring often.
Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Drain cashews. Add to a blender with fire roasted tomatoes and ½ cup of cooled reserved pasta water.
Blend until very smooth and creamy.
Pour cream sauce over vegetables.
Stir in 1 more cup of reserved pasta water.
Add sauce to pot with pasta, tossing to combine. Stir in parsley, season to taste, and serve hot!
Substitutions and dietary modifications
- Nut free: Unfortunately I don't have a great cashew sub. My best guess would be sunflower seed butter, but I haven't tried it!
- Gluten free: Use brown rice pasta or your favorite gluten free pasta.
- Shrimp: Cajun pasta with shrimp is so delish! See recipe card for detailed instructions.
- Chickpeas: Add a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas for texture plus a protein punch.
- Chicken: Pound two chicken breasts and cut into bite-size pieces. Sprinkle with same seasoning as shrimp and cook on skillet over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165F. My husband loved it this way!
- Veggies: Feel free to add or sub whatever veggies you love, like broccoli, zucchini or spinach!
How to store
Store cooled pasta in an air-tight container for up to 4 days. Reheat over the stove or in the microwave, adding a splash of water if needed to loosen sauce since it will absorb.
My top tip
Don't over-cook the pasta or it may break down when you're stirring in the sauce!
I hope you're as obsessed with this fun recipe as I am!
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Rich and creamy Cajun Pasta packed with veggies in a luxurious, flavor-packed tomato cream sauce. Weeknight dinner just got make more exciting! You'd never guess this pasta is easy to make and dairy free. It has a nice kick but isn't overly spicy. Satisfying on its own and also a great canvas for adding your favorite protein, like shrimp, chicken, or chickpeas. See recipe notes for more details.
For the pasta:
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 16oz penne, rotini, or bowtie pasta (I like brown rice pasta, reserve 2 cups cups pasta water)
- 1 14.5 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, not drained
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium red or yellow onion, diced
- 2 bell peppers, sliced (I used 2 cups frozen bell peppers)
- 8oz sliced baby Bella or cremini mushrooms
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅓ cup parsley leaves, chopped
For the Cajun spice mixture:
- 1 ½ tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- ¼ tsp thyme
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Place cashews in a small bowl and cover with hot water.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve about 2 cups of pasta water (I put the strainer over a large liquid measuring cup). Return pasta to pot.
- Whisk together Cajun seasoning ingredients in a small bowl.
- In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add onion, peppers, mushrooms, and Cajun seasoning. Sauté for 8 minutes, stirring often, until softened.
- Add garlic and cook for another minute. Remove from heat.
- Drain cashews. Add to a blender (I used my Nutribullet) with fire roasted tomatoes and ½ cup of cooled reserved pasta water. Blend until very smooth and creamy.
- Pour cream sauce over vegetables. Stir in 1 more cup of reserved pasta water. Add sauce to pot with pasta, tossing to combine. Stir in parsley, season to taste, and serve hot!
- Shrimp would be delish here! Rinse and pat dry 1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp. Sprinkle liberally with smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Once you transfer veggie cream sauce to pasta pot, you can use that skillet to cook shrimp. Warm a splash of oil and cook shrimp for 2 minutes, not moving, then flip and cook another 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and serve with pasta.
- The pasta will absorb the sauce as it sits, so I like to save the extra reserved pasta water and add it to the pasta (or leftovers) as needed to loosen the sauce.