Creole Shrimp and Sausage Rigatoni

This recipe won 2nd Place in the al fresco Dinner Made Easy recipe contest I found in the June 2011 issue of Food Network Magazine.  The main criteria of the contest included a healthy, fresh meal using al fresco chicken sausage.  It also had to be able to be prepared in 30 minutes or less.

At first I wasn’t going to enter the contest because I had a lot going on at the time and I didn’t think I would have the time to create an original recipe before the contest deadline.  I made my decision when I was at Harris Teeter one day and al fresco chicken sausage was on sale. I also had a $1.oo off coupon. This was the sign I needed.

The inspiration for the recipe didn’t come until I had lunch with my friend Keisha at California Pizza Kitchen. She had this jambalya pasta dish that looked and tasted pretty good. A light bulb went off in my head and I had my recipe. I just modified my jambalya recipe from rice to pasta.  After that the recipe pretty much came together on it’s own.  I sent it in and that was that.

Several weeks later I recieved an e-mail with the subject: Congratulations! You Are the 2nd runner up in the Dinner Made Easy contest!  How cool is that?!

This recipe is not complicated and whips up in minutes.  If you can’t find chicken sausage, feel free to substitute with keilbasa or smoked sausage.  You can even use Italian sausage, just remove the casing and cook until no longer pink. Then follow the recipe.‏

Creole Shrimp and Sausage Rigatoni
Makes 8 servings

1 (16-ounce) box rigatoni
1 pound medium shrimp (31 to 40 per pound), peeled and deveined
3/4  teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (12-ounce) package jalapeno chicken sausage, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Grated parmesan cheese, for serving

Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with 3/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning and set aside.

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. Drain the pasta, return to the pot and keep warm.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the onion and poblano pepper. Cook the vegetables until tender, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and chicken sausage, and cook one additional minute.

Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, hot sauce and butter. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the shrimp.  Cover and let sit for 3 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Stir in the reserved pasta water, chopped parsley and lemon zest. Pour the sauce in the pot with the pasta. Toss the pasta to coat. Serve the pasta with grated parmesan cheese.

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