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Cajun Shrimp Pasta

Simone Manuel's mom shares her favorite recipe -- Cajun pasta
Casey Barber

Chef notes

Simone Manuel made history as a the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold in an individual swimming event. Here, her mom shares one of her favorite recipes growing up -- and get a taste of what fuels Simone.


  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
  • 2 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (Tony Chachere's)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt + 2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup low fat 2% milk
  • 3/4 cup grated American or Monterey Jack cheese
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)


Toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and set aside.

Whisk the remaining Cajun seasoning and black pepper with the garlic powder, crushed red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside.

Bring a large (8-quart) pot of water to a boil and add the remaining 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.

While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and parsley. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and the pepper and celery is crisp-tender, about 7-8 minutes.

Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the shrimp and vegetables to a large bowl.

Reduce the heat to low and melt the butter in the skillet. Whisk in the milk and reserved seasoning. Bring to a simmer and whisk in the grated cheese. Whisk until creamy.

Return the cooked shrimp and vegetables to the skillet and toss in the sauce until they are coated. Drizzle in the pasta water as needed, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, to reach the desired consistency.

Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve.

This dish is great with steamed broccoli and grilled salmon.