While the cruise to Mexico was our main honeymoon foray, we made sure to schedule some time to hang out in New Orleans, too. When our ship docked at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, Rob and I decided to explore the city and stay the night before our long journey home the next day.
I made sure to schedule all the best places to eat since Cajun food is one of my most favorite cuisines. You’ve got this great melting pot of cuisines in New Orleans: Italian, French, Creole, and Southern.
For lunch, we stopped by a NOLA legend so we could get a muffuletta. Muffulettas were brought over to New Orleans by Italian immigrants that settled the area. The hearty sandwich consists of a generous amount of Italian cold cuts like ham, mortadella and salami and then topped off with an olive salad and served in a round bread. The Napoleon House has been around for nearly a century, and the interior shows it. They specialize in muffulettas and a British drink called a Pimm’s cup, so of course—I got both.
Red beans and rice & a bag of Zapp’s Voodoo chips later and I was happy.
After traipsing through Bourbon street and ogling at all the underwater wildlife at the Louisiana Aquarium, it was time for an afternoon snack. We hit up a restaurant in the lobby of the Hilton hotel near the Mississippi River—a little more off the beaten path from the Quarter.
I know it sounds strange, but all the locals raved about Drago’s oysters. You can get them raw or charbroiled, which is a house specialty. The charbroiled oysters are topped with a cheesy, garlicky topping that makes them slide down the throat like butter.
One sazerac and six charbroiled oysters later, and I was happy as a clam.
For dinner, we stopped by another landmark restaurant: Mother’s. Known for their famous ham dinners, they also offer the best of Southern-Cajun cooking.
I went for the whopper: the combination plate. It had everything I wanted on it: red beans and rice, jambalaya, and my Cajun favorite, crawfish etouffee. You get to pick two sides so I went with potato salad and collard greens. I also couldn’t resist their turtle soup that was on special that day, so I got a cup of that too.
I can’t believe I ate the whole plate! Holy moly. This dinner really hit the spot.
On our long road trip home, I had a friend recommend a good half way point to stop at. In Natchitoches (pronounced “Nack-a-tish”), Louisiana, there’s a little convenience store and gas station that also doubles as a restaurant and bakery. The French Market Express makes everything from po’boys to boudin balls to chicken and dressing.
I had to get a shrimp po’boy before I left the state. I ordered their shrimp po’boy and smothered it in Louisiana hot sauce. We also bought a cooler and some ice to take home their famous crawfish pies, boudin, and this stellar deal they had on gulf shrimp.
When I got home, I wanted to make something with the shrimp that was an ode to our time in New Orleans. I was feeling pasta, so I whipped together a pantry-mash up of roasted red peppers and garlic to make a creamy red pepper sauce to go over some rigatoni.
While in NOLA, I bought a cajun spice blend. I spiced those puppies up and threw the shrimp on my hot grill pan.
Let me tell you something. Red pepper sauce with grilled shrimp is a beautiful combination. It was like the two were just meant to be. Like peanut butter and jelly. Bread and butter. Cheetos and mustard.
Oh, sorry. That’s one of my weird combos.
If you use already peeled, deveined shrimp—this dinner will take you less than 20 minutes to put together. Since I bought the freshest shrimp possible, it probably took me nearly 30 minutes alone to cut off the heads, peel and de-vein this massive shrimp.
It was well worth it, though.
Well worth it.
Shrimp & Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
Spicy shrimp meets a creamy roasted red pepper sauce served over rigatoni.
- 2 lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
- salt and pepper
- 2 TBS. olive oil, divided
- 1 lb. rigatoni
- 1 (16 oz) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- Parmesan, for topping
- In a large saucepan, heat one tablespoon over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add roasted red pepper and stir. Cook for another minute.
- Pour pepper and onion mix into a food processor. Pulse until mixture is creamy but still a little grainy. Add mixture back to the saucepan and reduce heat to medium low. Stir in chicken broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes so flavors can meld together. Pour in cream and stir in oregano, basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Remove saucepan from heat.
- Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add rigatoni and cook according to package instructions. Drain and toss pasta with sauce in saucepan.
- Meanwhile, make the shrimp. Place peeled shrimp in a bowl and sprinkle Cajun seasoning over them. Toss so all shrimp are well coated. Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a grill pan over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes a side, or until shrimp is pink.
- Serve shrimp over sauced pasta and add Parmesan if desired.
In a large saucepan, heat one tablespoon over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes or until onion is translucent.
Add roasted red pepper and stir. Cook for another minute.
Pour pepper and onion mix into a food processor. Pulse until mixture is creamy but still a little grainy. Add mixture back to the saucepan and reduce heat to medium low.
Stir in chicken broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes so flavors can meld together.
Pour in cream and stir in oregano, basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Remove saucepan from heat.
Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain, and toss with sauce in saucepan. Meanwhile, make the shrimp: Pour seasoning over shrimp and toss in a large bowl. Heat remaining olive oil in a grill pan over medium heat and grill shrimp until pink, about 1-2 minutes per side.
Serve shrimp over sauced pasta and add Parmesan if desired.