Cooking on a budget – jambalaya pasta

Lee_3One of the ways I maintain personal wellness is by cooking food for friends. Both the health benefits of eating a home-cooked meal and the social aspect of breaking bread with friends help me relax and de-stress.

With summer slowly coming to an end, I find that more and more friends ask to come over for dinner parties.  Although jambalaya pasta may sound a bit intimidating, creating this dish is definitely easier than it seems and very quick to prepare.

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 15 Minutes


  • 4 servings of dry penne – $1.49
  • 3 cups of chicken stock – $1.73
  • A pack of sliced chorizo or Andouille sausages – $7.79
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into cubes – $4.56
  • ½ pound of peeled, deveined shrimp – $11.62
  • 1 bell pepper – $1.09
  • ¾ cup chopped onions – $0.40
  • 1 clove of garlic minced – $0.08
  • 1 cup heavy cream – $1.69
  • 1 cup of tomato puree or 4 diced tomatoes – $0.88 for 1 can tomato puree / $1.54 for fresh tomatoes
  • “Creole” spice ~$1 (make your own, or use a prepared mix). To make your own, combine the following:
    • 2 ½ tablespoons of salt
    • 3 tablespoons paprika
    • 1 tablespoon black pepper
    • Chile powder to taste
    • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
    • ¼ tablespoon cumin
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese – $2.44
  • Freshly chopped basil and thyme, to taste – $1 (or grow your own!)
  • Bread rolls are optional (olive oil with rosemary rolls go really well with this dish) – $2.99

Total: $39.09 for the dish, about $9.77 per person




The name of the game for this recipe is efficiency. You first want bring a pot of water to a boil and season the water as needed. Once it’s boiling, add the pasta and cook per package instructions.

As the pasta cooks, oil up a hot, deep pan and first fry your sausage slices for about 2 minutes. Take them out, set aside, and add your shrimp to the pan. Season each side of the shrimp with about a pinch of the creole seasoning. Fry each side of the shrimp for no more than 1 minute. Take the shrimp out and add the chicken. Generously season the chicken and let it fry for 3 minutes. When the chicken is fully cooked, put the rest of the meat, onions, tomatoes, bell pepper, and garlic into the pan. Let the mix cook for about 3 minutes and use the remainder of the creole seasoning.

The pasta should be fully cooked now, so drain it and save about ½ cup of the pasta water. Pour the chicken stock and ½ cup of pasta water into the pan and let it simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Next, pour the heavy cream and the cooked penne into the pan. Make sure to stir the penne into the sauce and let it cook for another minute or so. When finished, plate the pasta and then generously sprinkle parmesan cheese over top. Top the pasta with fresh basil and thyme. This wonderful pasta dish can comfortably serve 4. Enjoy!


~ Paul Lee, predental, Virginia Tech

Paul Lee

Paul Lee is a junior at Virginia Tech. He loves the Hokie community and wouldn’t trade anything in the world for it. He is a biology major and is applying to dental schools later in the year. He enjoys cooking, bashing on the drums, poorly playing games of golf and having a great time with friends.

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