Cajun Shrimp Macaroni and Cheese
The 30 days of macaroni and cheese are back! Every January/February for the last few years I have teamed up with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board to share a new macaroni and cheese recipe with you in conjunction with their blog, 30 Days, 30 Ways with Macaroni and Cheese. I am all-in with anything that involves large amounts of pasta and cheese, so creating these recipes is right up my alley! This year, the WMMB put a new spin on the mac n’ cheese recipes; we’re taking favorite classic dishes and turning them into macaroni and cheese. The possibilities for this are absolutely endless and I had a heck of a time narrowing down my ideas. In the end, I settled on a rendition of Cajun shrimp, which is a popular dish in the south. Spicy shrimp is cooked up and served alongside either rice, grits or a loaf of bread for sopping up the spicy sauce (yum). I thought that spicy shrimp would be the perfect pairing for a creamy mac and cheese dish; turns out, I was right!
I loaded up my favorite basic baked macaroni and cheese recipe (seen here and here) with spicy shrimp, pepper jack cheese for an extra kick, and topped it with light-as-air Panko bread crumbs. The dish isn’t too spicy (my mom is really sensitive to spicy dishes, and she thought the mac and cheese was fabulous, the spice not too overpowering), so if you like your Cajun shrimp to be fiery hot, I’d add a little cayenne pepper to the blend of seasonings. All in all, the creamy, cheesy pasta is the perfect partner for the spicy shrimp. A match made in heaven, for sure.
My brain won’t stop trying to convert all of my favorite dishes into macaroni and cheese now! I’m still not convinced that’s a bad problem to have, though 😉
What’s your favorite version of macaroni and cheese?
Head over to the Macaroni and Cheese Blog and spend an entire month drooling over macaroni and cheese recipes. That’s my plan!
Cajun Shrimp Macaroni and Cheese
A spicy Cajun shrimp version of my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe.
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, divided
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 pound cavatappi pasta (or shaped pasta of your choice)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
12 ounces Pepper Jack cheese, shredded (about 3 cups), divided
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups), divided
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9x13-inch casserole dish. Heat a large pot of water over high heat for the pasta; cover.
2. In a 10-inch skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the shrimp and ½ teaspoon of the Cajun seasoning and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is all pink and cooked through. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook the pasta according to the box directions for al dente pasta (if your box doesn't specify al dente, cook it for 1 to 2 minutes shorter than the time called for - it shouldn't be cooked the whole way through). When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it in a colander.
4. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, until the flour starts to brown a bit and smells nutty, whisking constantly. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the milk. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.
5. Once the sauce comes to a simmer, stir in 9 ounces each of the Pepper Jack and 6 ounces of the cheddar cheese, adding a handful at a time and stirring with a wooden spoon until completely melted before adding the next handful. Season with the remaining ½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper, and turn off the heat.
6. Add the cooked, drained pasta and shrimp to the sauce. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is completely combined and evenly distributed. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
7. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter with the Panko bread crumbs.
8. Sprinkle the macaroni and cheese with the remaining shredded cheeses. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of the cheese.
9. Bake until browned and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.