Sunday, May 3, 2015

(Lightened Up) Cheesecake Factory Louisiana Chicken Pasta

Even better than the original! This creamy chicken pasta is bursting with Cajun flavor that can easily be adjusted to suit your taste. It'll quickly become a new family favorite!

Cheesecake Factory and their novel sized menu is not known for being healthy. Instead, they are known for huge portions, delicious food, and cheesecake! While lots of their dishes are popular, the Louisiana Chicken Pasta is one of the most popular - and for good reason! It's creamy, a tad spicy, and downright sinful.

The original calls for deep frying the chicken. Delicious? Yes! But messy for a home cook to make and loaded with calories. This version is (very) lightened up compared to the original but please don't think that means this version is health food - it's not - but it's definitely splurge worthy!

Dare I say it's better than the original version?

I hesitated from making this recipe years ago due to my fear of spice. I scaled back the cayenne a tad but really found it to be perfect. Feel free to adjust to your taste!

Louisiana Chicken Pasta
For the chicken:
2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper
Cajun seasoning

For the pasta:
8 oz. bowtie pasta
Kosher salt 

For the sauce:
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1.5 cups half-and-half
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. water 
3 scallions, chopped 

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the cooked pasta and set aside.

Heat a small amount of butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and a generous sprinkle of Cajun seasoning. Add to the skillet and cook until lightly browned and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Return the skillet to medium heat and heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil until the butter has melted. Add the bell pepper, onion, salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, and cayenne pepper to the pan. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add the half-and-half and bring to a simmer. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water and add to the skillet once the cream mixture has started to bubble. Allow to cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

When the sauce has thickened, add the cooked pasta and chicken pieces to the pan. Stir well to combine and cook at medium-low heat just until the chicken is warmed through. 

Adjust the amount of Cajun seasoning if necessary to suit your tastes. Stir in the scallions. Serve immediately and top with additional Cajun seasoning, if desired.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats

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