Heat your cast iron pan until hot. The secret to blackening your ingredients is the butter and the cast iron pot. Make sure it’s hot. Place 1 tablespoon of butter to the cast iron pan and sear the seasoned chicken until it blackens to perfection.
The Chicken “Alfredo” sauce has always been a go-to in my parents’ house. Whenever us kids would come home from the neighborhood pool, my mom would cook us creamy Alfredo Fettuccine pasta with some dill on top. The dill was a nice, refreshing touch to the creaminess of the pasta. I was stunned to find out later on that “Alfredo” sauce isn’t exactly a traditional Italian dish.
Its components however are some form of another Italian dish, somewhere in Italy. It was made by an Italian chef, Alfredo de Lelio in the 20th century with only 3 ingredients – butter, Parmesan cheese and fettuccine pasta. Now that the rest of the world has adopted it, we’ve added heavy cream and sometimes even more cheese to make the pasta richer. The beauty of Alfredo sauce is that it’s so simple and delicious alone yet you can dress it up with anything you fancy – in our case, dill.
How to make Cheesy Blackened Chicken Alfredo
This particular Alfredo recipe is so special because we’re adding blackened chicken to it AND even more cheese. BEAUTIFUL.
What is blackened chicken? Blackened chicken is literally what the name says it is. It is spiced seasoned chicken, seared in butter to perfection until it achieves the charred color but not exactly burnt. The famous seasoning used for this is Zatarain’s blackening seasoning, which is made up of chili powder, spices and herbs. It gives a nice balance of spice and aromatics to whatever you use it on. If you do not have this, you can simply DIY.
To start, boil water in a pot for your pasta. Season the water with salt. Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
Meanwhile, melt the butter and drizzle it on the chicken. Dredge the chicken with salt, pepper and blackening seasoning.
Heat your cast iron pan until hot. The secret to blackening your ingredients is the butter and the cast iron pot. Make sure it’s hot. Place 1 TBSP of butter to the cast iron pan and sear the seasoned chicken until it blackens to perfection. Remove the chicken from the pan.
WARNING: Blackening chicken causes a LOT of smoke, it’s just the nature of the beast. So beware!
I like to clean my cast iron pan with a piece of kitchen paper towel after blackening my protein just so that the burnt butter won’t affect the rest of the dish. Wipe your cast iron pan with a piece of kitchen paper towel and place it over the heat. Let it heat up just a little and drop another 2 TBSP of butter. Add the garlic, minced onion until translucent.
Add the heavy cream to the pan and bring it up to a simmer but not boiling. Slowly and gently whisk in the cream cheese and pepper without touching your whisk on the bottom of your pan to avoid blackened bits in your sauce. That’s a crucial step right there! You don’t want your sauce looking like cookies and cream ice cream.
After the cream cheese has smoothened into the sauce, add the Parmesan and repeat the whisking step. Continue simmering to your desired thickness. Turn off the heat and add the cooked pasta to the pan and give it a little stir until the sauce dresses the noodles.
Plate the pasta and add the chicken on top. Garnish with fresh sprigs of parsley to add aromatic balance to the dish.
Tips and Tricks
When preparing the pot of boiling water for pasta, make sure to season with salt. My culinary instructor once told me that pasta water “must be as salty as the sea!”. Of course it doesn’t have to be as salty as the natural body of water but you get the idea. It needs salt!
Cook the pasta 3 minutes less than what the packaging says. I’m a huge fan of al dente pasta. The bite of al dente pasta gives the noodles more character and gives your mouth more sensory experience. Noodles in general cook through after you strain it so don’t worry about it being undercooked.
Do not overcook the chicken. In this recipe, the chicken is already chopped in bite-sized pieces. If you cook these small pieces of chicken for too long, it will be dry and no one likes dry chicken. Make sure that the cast iron pan is hot so that the whole process of blackening will be achieved in a short amount of cooking time.
If you need a substitute for cajun seasoning then you can find it here.
How do you make Blackened Chicken Alfredo creamy again?
There are so many ways to make Alfredo creamy!
First off, when working with the original trifecta (butter, Parmesan and fettuccine), combine the butter, finely grated Parmesan and (used) pasta water and place under heat. The key tip here is to whisk swiftly for the ingredients to slightly emulsify. What will cause all three to emulsify is the presence of starch in the pasta water. Pasta releases the starch in the water when it is being cooked. This helps thicken sauces.
Second, use good heavy cream. A good measurement of heavy cream is crucial because you want the pasta sauce to be creamy but not too heavy.
Lastly, cheese. The best cheese to use is of course, Parmesan but cream cheese, like in this recipe, is a good choice because of its tang that complements the seasoned chicken. You can use any kind of neutral cheese, just as long as it melts with the sauce.
What vegetables go well with Alfredo?
Neutral tasting vegetables taste the best with cream.
My top picks would be asparagus, broccoli and peas. If you’re feeling a little bit more adventurous with flavor, you can add fresh shitake or Portobello mushrooms. The umami of these mushrooms adds character and depth to the Alfredo sauce.
Cheesy Blackened Chicken Alfredo Recipe
- 16 ounce fettucine pasta alternative noodles
- 3 skinless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
- 2 tbsp butter
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp cajun seasoning
- 2 tbsp zatarain blackened seasoning alternative to salt/black pepper/cajun seasoning
- 1 shallot minced
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 cup cream cheese grated
- 1 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp garlic minced
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- parsley for garnish
Begin cooking your pasta and season the chicken.
Melt 2 tbsp butter in an iron skillet over high heat.
Add the chicken and reduce the heat to medium-high until your chicken is done on each side.
Remove the chicken and add 2 tbsp butter to skillet.
Add the garlic and minced shallot and stirfry until tender.
Add the heavy cream and bring it up to a quick boil.
Add the cream cheese, salt and pepper while whisking.
Add parmesan cheese and stir until it's all combined without any lumps. Keep on stiring and cooking until the sauce reaches your desired thickness.
Add the cooked pasta and re-evalute the thickness of your sauce.
Plate the pasta and chicken on top
Garnish with parsley.
Enjoy your dinner!