Made with just five ingredients, this spicy and creamy Cajun spinach pasta comes together in under 30 minutes. Double or triple the recipe for a meal the whole family will love! Pair it with my Cajun tortilla chip-crusted tilapia for a well-balanced meal that’s ready in under half an hour.
Ingredients for Creamy Cajun Spinach Pasta
This small batch creamy pasta recipe is so simple partly because of the few ingredients required to make it. Use fresh or frozen spinach to make it easy. The secret sixth ingredient is the leftover pasta water. Don’t drain your pasta until you’ve reserved about half a cup!
- Bowtie pasta (or another shaped pasta, like penne, fusilli, or rotini—use your favorite!)
- Cajun seasoning—I make my own from a mix of spices, but you can also purchase Cajun seasoning online.
- Sour cream—this is a major component of the creamy Cajun sauce.
- Parmesan cheese
- Spinach, fresh or frozen
Quick Tips for Prepping Creamy Cajun Spinach Pasta
If you use fresh spinach, it will take up a lot of room in the pot until it wilts. I recommend using a larger pot than you think you’ll need to make sure the cleanup is limited to your pot and not also your stovetop.
The Starchy Pasta Water
The biggest MVP of this recipe is the pasta water.
Here, we’re using the pasta water in conjunction with the sour cream and Cajun seasoning to make a creamy sauce that fully coats and clings to your pasta.
While dried pasta cooks, it leaves behind starch in the water. That’s why your pot of water starts to get cloudy the moment you add pasta to the boiling water, and why it continues to get cloudy the longer you cook your pasta. The same principle applies when you’re boiling potatoes or rinsing rice.
This starchy water helps thicken and emulsify sauces. Gone are the days of the sauce sitting on top of the noodle and quickly sliding off in your mouth. Here, the sauce made with pasta water actually sticks to the noodle.
When mixed with the sour cream in this recipe, the pasta water helps develop a creamy, non-greasy sauce that clings to your noodles, resulting in a tasty one-pot pasta dish.
How to Retrieve Pasta Water
To fetch my pasta water, I like to dip a glass measuring cup into the water right as the pasta finishes cooking. It makes it easy to tell how much water you’ve collected. It also makes it easy to see exactly how much water you’ve added to the sauce later on.
You can also ladle some of the pasta water out into a bowl or measuring cup. That uses more dishes, though.
I recommend taking out a little more than half a cup for every two servings, just in case your sauce cooks down.
I’ve had a good experience using only half a cup of pasta water. If you like a thinner sauce, you can always add another splash of pasta water without worrying about it watering down the flavor.
Can I Use Frozen Spinach?
Yes! In fact, my husband and I prefer frozen spinach over fresh in this creamy Cajun spinach pasta.
Frozen spinach will add extra moisture to the sauce, so keep that in mind as you’re adding the pasta water back in. I recommend using only half of the pasta water to start. Then, reassess once the spinach is hot and add more if desired.
What Can I Use instead of Sour Cream?
I’m not usually a huge fan of sour cream. The good news: You can’t really taste the sourness of sour cream in this recipe. If that’s what you’re worried about, don’t be!
But if you’re looking to make this recipe lower in fat and higher in protein, there’s an easy swap you can make. Substitute plain Greek yogurt for the sour cream. The Greek yogurt adds a bit of a tang, and the sauce isn’t quite as creamy, but it’s still really good—especially considering it cuts down on the fat in this recipe by over half!
Can I Make this Recipe Gluten-Free?
Easily! Simply swap out gluten-free pasta for regular pasta, and you’re good to go.
Dish Cleanup: Not Too Bad
I rate my recipe cleanups on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 is only a handful of dishes, and 5 is everything including the kitchen sink.
This creamy Cajun spinach pasta recipe has a cleanup rating of a 2. Most of the dishes can go in the dishwasher, leaving you with just a Dutch oven and colander to wash by hand.
Also, you likely won’t need to use as many “placeholder” dishes as I did (though you will have an additional teaspoon that I forgot to include in this photo!).
Overall, the active cleanup for this recipe should take less than 10 minutes.
Creamy Cajun Spinach Pasta for Two Recipe
- 8 oz bowtie pasta (226g)
- 4 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (11g)*
- 1/3 cup sour cream (70g)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (15g), plus more for topping
- 2 packed cups of spinach, frozen or fresh (100g)
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring six cups of water to a boil. Use a larger pot than you think you'll need—especially if you're doubling the recipe or using fresh spinach, as fresh spinach takes up a lot of volume until it wilts.
- Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions, stirring occasionally.
- Reserve ½ cup of the starchy pasta water. This will help emulsify the sauce. Drain the pasta and place it back in your pot on low heat.
- Add the pasta water, Cajun seasoning, sour cream, and Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine.
- Add in the spinach and stir until the leaves have wilted, about three minutes. Spoon onto plates or bowls and serve immediately. Top with additional freshly grated parmesan, if desired.
*The spice level of Cajun seasoning varies depending on the brand. If you haven't used your particular Cajun seasoning before and don't like your food very spicy, I'd recommend using only two or three teaspoons. Then, add more to taste.
Serve with my Cajun tortilla chip crusted-tilapia for a full meal!
This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to serve 4 to 6.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. If reheating this pasta on the stove, heat on medium low, stirring occasionally. Add a splash of heavy cream or a pat of butter for best results.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 335Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 33mgSodium: 2469mgCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 5gSugar: 2gProtein: 14g
The nutrition facts are estimated and may vary based on specific ingredients used.
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Other Recipes You May Enjoy
I’ve said it already, but this small batch pasta recipe pairs perfectly with my small batch Cajun tortilla chip-crusted tilapia recipe. If you start both at the same time, you can have a well-balanced meal ready in just about half an hour!
My hoisin turkey and brown rice bowls are a huge favorite in this house, and they’re perfect for busy weeknight dinners. The recipe includes secret vegetables hidden in the meat—perfect for kids!
One more quick meal idea for you: My easy homemade chicken ramen is a blog favorite for good reason. Transform chicken broth and plain ramen noodles into a flavorful and delicious soup in under half an hour!