Skillet toasted penne with cajun shrimp

Restricting your diet to healthy foods can be overwhelmingly challenging, especially if you’re used to indulging in creamy, cheesy, heavier dishes. I don’t have a fatty burger or greasy fries every day but whenever I decide to go on a “diet,” I find myself craving those foods all the time. In order for me to stay on the healthy route yet still stay sane, I try methods that recreate unhealthy foods to make them healthier. For instance, today’s meal is a cream-less creamy pasta with cajun shrimp…sounds confusing? Imagine enjoying a bowl of penne that has a nutty, toasted flavor and is creamy without any cream! Yes it is possible. This idea was inspired by my favorite publication, Cooking Light (they are wizards over there!) The secret? Cooking the pasta as if you would cook risotto – slowly cook the pasta by gradually adding stock rather than boiling it in a pot of water. Genius! And it works!

skillet toasted penne with cajun shrimp

skillet toasted penne with cajun shrimp

Skillet toasted penne with Cajun shrimp
Serves 4
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Total Time
55 min
Total Time
55 min
681 calories
69 g
274 g
19 g
55 g
6 g
721 g
2696 g
13 g
0 g
11 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 681
Calories from Fat 173
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 19g
Saturated Fat 6g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 8g
Cholesterol 274mg
Sodium 2696mg
Total Carbohydrates 69g
Dietary Fiber 5g
Sugars 13g
Protein 55g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Cajun shrimp
  1. 1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined
  2. 1 tbsp Creole seasoning
  3. 1 tsp paprika
  4. 1/2 tsp onion powder
  5. 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  6. 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  7. 1 tsp black pepper
  8. 1 tsp salt
  9. 1 tsp dried oregano
  10. 1 tsp dried thyme
Remaining toppings
  1. 6 strips bacon, chopped
  2. 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  3. 2 bell peppers, chopped
  1. 6 cups unsalted chicken stock
  2. 1 tbsp olive oil
  3. 1 cup onion, chopped
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 8 ounces penne pasta, uncooked
  6. 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  7. chopped parsley for garnish
  1. Combine seasonings for shrimp from Creole seasoning - dried thyme in a small bowl, setting aside 1 tbsp. Toss together shrimp with seasoning mix in a ziploc bag until shrimp is evenly coated.
  2. Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped bacon and cook until browned. Remove bacon and set aside. Discard all but 1 tbsp bacon fat. Return pan to heat. Add sliced mushrooms and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add bell peppers and cook 1 minute. Make a well in the center and add shrimp. Cook shrimp until firm and opaque, about 3-4 minutes. Add the bacon back to the pan and stir altogether. Remove toppings from heat and set aside.
  3. Heat stock in a saucepan over medium heat until simmering, but not boiling.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil. When oil is hot, add onion and garlic. Saute until onions are softened, about 4 minutes. Add pasta and toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the stock has been almost all absorbed before adding more liquid. The pasta will take about 35 minutes total.
  5. Add the shrimp mixture to the penne and stir to combine. Stir in grated parmesan and reserved 1 tbsp seasoning mix. Garnish with parsley. Serve.
Adapted from Cooking Light
Adapted from Cooking Light
Cherry on my Sundae

**Helpful tips and common mistakes

If you’re unfamiliar with risotto, it is a classic Italian dish in which rice is slowly cooked in a broth until it has a creamy consistency. The starches from the rice are released while it absorbs the liquid, resulting in a hearty, creamy rice dish without using any cream. Now apply this method to making pasta and just imagine the results – curious yet? I’ve made orzo using the risotto method, so why not pasta? The pasta takes longer to cook but the end result is well worth it.

First things first, heat the chicken broth or the liquid of your choosing. Adding hot broth to the pasta keeps a constant temperature, shortening the cooking process. When you’re ready to cook, use a wide pot to allow the pasta to cook evenly. After adding the aromatics (onion and garlic), add the penne and cook in the oil until it is toasted. Toasting the pasta before cooking brings out a nutty flavor and adds another element to the dish. 

skillet toasted penne with cajun shrimp

Start cooking the pasta by adding the broth in 1 cup increments. Halfway through, you’ll notice the penne starting to soften. 

skillet toasted penne with cajun shrimp

Assemble the pasta and serve while hot. There is so much flavor in this penne with Cajun shrimp dish, from the penne itself, the shrimp and vegetables. The penne has a great nuttiness while the shrimp is spicy, bacon salty, and mushrooms earthy. This dish comes together so well – I have to say, I’m quite proud of the results. Dishes like these remind me that experimenting with new methods can be well worth your time!

skillet toasted penne with cajun shrimp


Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles


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  1. What a fabulous idea to slow cook the pasta. I can’t wait to try this!

  2. Wonderful!

  3. Nathan

    This was delicious. It was quite spicy, even for me, and I love heat so I’ll probably tone it down next time. I also didn’t need all of the chicken stock, I had just over 2 cups left over and I used more than 8 oz of pasta.

    Overall, it was a little time-consuming, but super good. Thanks for this!

  4. I love Cajun food, shrimp, and pasta, so I pretty much love everything about this dish! Your pictures are gorgeous too. Beautiful job!

  5. This recipe totally caught my eye…it looks AMAZING! I love the Cajun flavors!!

  6. Stephanie

    Made this for dinner tonight, loved it!!!! My personal changes were no mushrooms, and maybe next time just a half tsp of cayenne. I’m glad I like spicy because my batch turned out extra Cajun! I can’t wait to make this dinner again, maybe a double batch next time šŸ™‚

  7. Michelle

    Made this last night and it was SO SCRUPTIOUS! I made it exactly** as you described and it was really easy and so flavorful! Awesome recipe, thanks for sharing.

    **I thought I had enough chicken stock, but didn’t so used a half mixture of stock and broth. Still turned out tasty, though!

    • cma0425

      So glad you liked it! Thanks for visiting šŸ™‚

  8. mark butler

    Loved it but it was too hot for the wife. It seems that the ingredients in creole spice match the other spices in the rub exactly. Next time I will omit the cyanne and we will be right on time buddy!

  9. Tina

    I’m very amateur in the kitchen, but I followed the recipe and it turned out amazing. It does take time, but the end result was scrumptious!!!! Thrilled to bits. Thanks for the recipe.

    • cma0425

      Thank you for the feedback! I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe as much as I did!

  10. I don’t understand how you cook the pasta

    • cma0425

      Have you ever made risotto before? The idea is the same. You saute the onion and garlic first in a pan. Add the pasta. Pour 1 cup hot stock to the pan with the pasta. Stir and wait until there is almost no liquid left. Pour another cup of stock. Stir and wait until there is almost no liquid left. You keep repeating this until you used all the soft and the pasta is cooked. Add back the toppings and finish with grated parmesan.

  11. These look so good.
    Iā€™d love to try to make it.
    My kids love it
    Thank for sharing!!

  12. This looks really delicious. I love shrimp and will surely try your awesome recipe. Thank you so much !

  13. Ally

    So. Hot. and So. Salty. I will adjust these next time because overall the flavor was great (until I couldn’t taste anymore!)! Haha!

  14. This recipe looks delicous and easy to follow. I will try it soon. Thank for share it !

  15. Iā€™m very amateur in the kitchen, but I followed the recipe and it turned out amazing. It does take time, but the end result was scrumptious!!!! Thrilled to bits. Thanks for the recipe.

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