I grew up about an hour outside of New Orleans so to say that I like cajun would be a drastic understatement. I LOVE cajun and creole food. Crawfish étouffée, shrimp po’ boys, king cake, jambalaya…YUM, I could go on all day long. I would take a crawfish po’ boy over a five star restaurant dish any day of the week. Don’t even get me started on beignets (wipes drool from mouth). For some people meatloaf is the taste of home and comfort but for me its creole and cajun. Spicy and unforgettable, I am honestly salivating at the thought of my very favorites.
Fun fact: there is a difference between creole and cajun. Creole dishes use tomatoes while cajun dishes do not. You learned something today!
With the impending Mardi Gras celebration coming up, I’ve got cajun on the brain! I hope you’ll give this No FOMO’ed version of creole penne a shot. It is made without dairy and is also gluten-free. The cashew cream is velvety with robust notes of sundries tomatoes and basil while the wilted spinach bring a little texture. This warm and fresh dish is full of of depth with layers of flavor. It’s spicy but not fiery enough to make your throat burn, it’s just right. My husband doesn’t get on board with my level of spicy so I tend to tone the heat down. Add some extra cayenne to yours to really bring the Nola out.
What’s your favorite New Orleans’ cuisine?
Creamy Creole Penne
For the creole cream you need:
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tbl water
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cajun spice mix (I used Simply Organic Cajun)
- 1/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes drained from olive oil
- Dash of salt and pepper to taste
For the cajun grilled chicken:
- 1 lb chicken breast
- 2 tbl olive oil
- 2 tbl lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp cajun seasoning
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
For final preparation you need:
- 1 large handful fresh spinach
- 1 tbl fresh basil chopped
- 1/3 cup sundried tomato drained from oil and chopped
- 1 12 oz box brown rice penne pasta
- Place raw cashews in a bowl and cover with water. Allow to soak overnight. Drain and rinse before use.
- In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon, salt, black pepper, cajun seasoning and garlic powder. Add chicken breast to a resealable bag and pour in marinade. Let sit in the fridge for at least a few hours so the marinade can do its work.
- Combine all ingredients for the creole cream in a high spend blender. Blend until very smooth and no chunks remain. If your blender isn’t properly pureeing your sauce, add a splash of olive oil to help it out (but do so sparingly).
- Cook penne according to box instructions.
- Cook chicken on a grill top or grill over medium direct heat for 6-8minutes per side. Let the chicken sit five minutes before slicing to keep juicy.
- Add spinach to a colander. Once penne is cooked, carefully pour the pasta over the spinach in the sink (wonderful trick I learned form Oh She Glows) and return the pasta and spinach to the pot.
- Add the creole cream, chopped sundried tomatoes and basil to the pasta noodles and spinach mixture. Cook until heated through over low heat for about five minutes.
- Top with grilled chicken slices, extra basil and red pepper flakes for added heat.