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Blackened Chicken Penne with Shrimp

 In my very early 20’s, a whole lifetime ago, I used to go to little bar that had a full dinner menu before 10 p.m. Without a doubt, my favourite dish of theirs was the Blackened Chicken Penne. The waitress there was kind enough to share the recipe with me but really it was a classic example of ignorance being bliss; half of the sauce was full fat Alfredo sauce. My veins start to throb in agony just thinking about it. Here is my lighter, almost guilt free rendition and it’s so good. I love the flavour the shrimp give the sauce.   Honestly, even if you’re not a fan of spicy food, you have to try this it’s insane good.

Serves 4

1 Batch of my salsa

2 Skinless, boneless chicken breasts coated in Cajun (blackening spice)

½ Cup of Half & Half cream (10%)

1 tbsp fat free sour cream

2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

453 g (1 pound) of Shrimp (I just used frozen that I thawed)

Salt

Pepper

1 375 g box of Whole wheat penne

Prepare the salsa as the recipe outlines and then when it’s simmering, prepare the pasta and chicken;

Put a large pot of water to boil for the pasta and when it comes to a boil, cook according to package directions.

Sprinkle and coat the chicken breasts in (store bought) Cajun seasoning (see notes).

Grill or panfry the chicken breasts until they are cooked through, set aside to let the chicken rest.

When the salsa has cooked, stir in the cream and the parmesan cheese (don’t let the mixture come to a boil).

Stir in the shrimp and season with salt and pepper.

Cut the chicken breasts into thin strips and mix them into the sauce.

When the pasta is cooked, reserve a cup of the pasta water in case the salsa mixture is too thick.

Strain the pasta and then add it to the pan with the sauce; mix well.

If the sauce is too thick then stir in some of the pasta water, stop when its come to the consistency you like.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. Cajun spice is hot so if you don’t want too much heat you can use a small amount or skip it altogether (this is what makes the chicken blackened though).
  2. The chicken and salsa can both be made ahead of time.
  3. Feel free to top with parsley or cilantro, they’ll help cut the heat.

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