Creamy Cajun Sausage and Mushroom Penne

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Something really rare happened, y’all.

BOTH my kids tried a new dish I made and agreed it was delicious enough to make it into our permanent dinner rotation.

Twelve is pretty good about trying new dishes these days, and when I make one that has her two favorite things: Beyond Meat sausages and mushrooms, it’s pretty much a given that she will enjoy it.

Seven is the wild card. She doesn’t like spicy things. She doesn’t like mushrooms. She really only likes vegan breakfast sausages. But she lives for pasta. So I knew I had a fighting chance.

She was skeptical at first, and I won’t lie – she picked her way around the mushrooms and the sausage. But she loved the sauce. The base of this sauce is a classic, veganized bechamel, which I kicked up a few notches by adding Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning.

I chose the original version, which is a medium level spice, and was careful not to add too much. Just enough to make your tastebuds tingle – but without feeling like you needed to follow up each bite with a fire extinguisher.

The result: she ate THREE helpings. I definitely call that a win!

Creamy Cajun Sausage and Mushroom Penne

Serves: 6 | Nut-free, Gluten-free option | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes

1 (16oz) package penne rigate*

1-2 tablespoons neutral oil (I use grapeseed)

1 small white onion, diced

1 (4oz) package cremini mushrooms, stems removed, and caps sliced

1 package Beyond Meat Sweet (or hot) Italian Sausage, slightly thawed and sliced into ½ inch pieces

3 tablespoons vegan butter or margarine

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour*

1 teaspoon mild red pepper paste

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 ½ tablespoons Cajun seasoning mix, divided

3 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk of choice (I used soy)

1 teaspoon sweet paprika, optional, for garnish

½ teaspoon dried parsley, optional, for garnish

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.
  2. In a medium-size skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until onions are just translucent, and mushrooms are soft – about 5 minutes. Add the sliced sausage and cook for 5-7 minutes or until sausage is cooked through. Drain any excess oil from the pan and set the pan aside.
  3. In a large pan, heat the butter on medium-high heat. Once melted, add the garlic and red pepper paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant – about 2 minutes.  Add the flour, nutritional yeast, and 1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula, to form a thick roux.  Once formed, reduce heat to medium and switch to a balloon whisk. Add the milk, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until fully incorporated before adding the next cup. It should take anywhere from 6-8 minutes for the entire process. At that point, you should have a sauce that coats the back of a spoon. Taste and add remaining ½ tablespoon of Cajun seasoning if you want the dish to be spicier. 
  4. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, along with the sausage, onions, and mushrooms. Dust with paprika and sprinkle with parsley if using.

Notes:

*for gluten-free diets, use a gluten-free pasta, such as Barilla gluten-free. and use a gluten-free flour in place of all-purpose

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