Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cajun Pasta With Sausage

On Saturday, we did our completely over-sized and horrendous monthly grocery shopping trip.  My husband and I dread it each month because it takes about 4 hours, from the time we leave until everything is put away.  Why do we do a monthly shopping spree then?  Because we spend a lot more money if we go to the grocery store every couple of days, or even weekly.  We've been doing this ever since we got together, so we have it down to a fine art, but that still doesn't mean we like it.

Anyway.......the reason I brought this up wasn't to complain, in fact, just the opposite.  We went to Fargo this time, because we had some additional shopping to do, and I couldn't have been more thrilled.  Our grocery stores are okay, but there we have so many more options.  The meat department at Hornbacher's has such a variety - it was wonderful!  And, I got to go through Super Target, which has a Giada section!  That's what I was really looking forward to.  My only problem was trying to decide what to bring home and what to save for the next time.  Let me tell you, it was tough.  I ended up with a couple of boxes of bucatini, a box of casarecce and a couple of different jars of tapenade.  I have been craving bucatini, however, it was the casarecce that had my heart thumping!  We can't get it here, so I've never had this lovely little scroll shaped pasta.  I couldn't wait to try it.  The shape makes it perfect for chunky sauces, so I chose a sauce with Italian sausage, onions and peppers.  The pasta did not disappoint!

Also, while we were in Fargo, we decided to have lunch someplace that we had never gone before.  It took about 15 minutes of driving around, and finally straying from the beaten path before we found The Cajun Cafe.  It was a nice little place with jazz playing and a menu filled with things like crawfish, gator and po' boys.  I went with the crawfish and remoulade sauce, and a side of chicken and andouille gumbo.  My son, in typical fashion, was anxious to try something different, so he chose popcorn gator.  Bailey struggled, but finally decided on a Cajun Chicken Philly Po' Boy.  And, my husband opted for a crawfish po' boy.  Of course we all wanted to taste a little of everyone else's, so we shared bites with one another.  Everything was very good!  It also reminded me how much I love Cajun food.  With that in mind, and casarecce in hand, I was all set to make my skinnier version of a creamy Cajun sauce.

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1 Lb. mild Italian sausage
1/2 Lb. hot Italian sausage
1 Lb. casarecce, or another sturdy pasta
14.5 Oz can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 Cups chicken broth
2/3 Cup fat-free half and half
1 Onion
1 Orange or yellow sweet bell pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Lawry's seasoning salt
1/2 Teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 Teaspoons Tony Chacere's Creole seasoning, or your favorite Cajun seasoning blend
1/3 Cup reserved pasta water
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Brown both Italian sausages in a large skillet.  Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Also, cut onion into thin wedges and pepper into strips.

Once sausage is cooked, add onions, peppers, tomatoes, chicken broth and seasonings. 

Cover and cook on medium-high while pasta is going. 

For those of you who don't know what casarecce pasta looks like, here you go.

Boil pasta for the minimum time on the box.  Before draining, reserve 1/3 cup pasta water.  Add pasta, water, half and half and butter to the skillet with Italian sausage mixture.  Stir well.

Continue cooking for another couple of minutes, or until sauce has reduced and started to thicken.  Pull off the heat, cover and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  The sauce will thicken even more.  Just give it a little stir before serving.  I skipped this step because my daughter was "starving" so my sauce was a little runnier, to begin with, but thickened up on the table.  Regardless, it still tasted awesome.