Crawfish Monica Pasta
Named after Kajun Kettle Foods Chef Pierre “Pete” Hilzim’s wife Monica, Crawfish Monica Pasta is a New Orleans Jazz Festival staple but an easy enough recipe means you can make it at home and skip the crowds. And considering Jazz Fest hasn’t happened the past two years, it’s a really good thing the internet saves the day with the recipe.
You can learn more about the family who continues to serve the famed Crawfish Monica on Nola.com. But don’t think they’re sharing the family trademarked recipe, though. They’re keeping a lid on that but there is one similar at the bottom of the article.
My recipe differs slightly but we will talk more about that later.
You’ll see some folks refer to Crawfish Monica as a combination of mac and cheese meets crawfish, but I don’t think that’s an adequate description. It is creamy like you would want your mac and cheese to be, but the amount of parmesan cheese (in my opinion) is minimal to be considered a true mac and cheese.
I’d describe it more as spicy crawfish marries a creamy, cheesy butter sauce who then has a rotini pasta baby making one of the most delicious families on the planet.
And then you might think, well, it sounds like a bit like fettuccini alfredo when you start mentioning cream and butter sauce. And you’d be correct except that Crawfish Monica gets its kick from the addition of Creole seasoning and the fat and flavor from the crawfish.
Regardless of how you describe it, the importance comes from the ingredients you choose to use.
While the ingredients list is limited and uncomplicated, the ingredients need to be fresh. Ideally, this recipe achieves rockstar status with freshly boiled crawfish but that’s a bit of a tall order so frozen is fine to use, however, be sure to read the fine print on the packaging. Some Chinese companies have gotten VERY clever by naming themselves something authentic sounding but when you take a look at where they originate, you’ll find they’re being farmed in China.
Do not use crawfish from China and expect this to taste like that you will find in the south. Just don’t.
In fact, just skip this recipe entirely if you cannot get your hands on Louisiana crawfish.
Crawfish Monica Pasta
A combination of local crawfish and a cream sauce, this pasta dish became popular at New Orleans Jazz Festival and named after chef wife, Monica.
- 16 ounces rotini pasta (can also use fettuccine, linguine, penne) *see notes below
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 stick of butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon creole seasoning
- 1 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 2/3 cup of milk *see notes about cream sauce
- 1 pound Louisiana crawfish tails (with fat)
- 1 bunch green onions, chopped
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated and divided
Cook the pasta to al dente according to the instructions on the package.
When the pasta is al dente, drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot, cover and set aside.
In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until soft and translucent.
Add the garlic and continue to saute another 2 minutes.
Add the creole seasoning and mix well. Saute another 2 minutes.
Add the cream and milk, stirring to combine. Simmer on low until the sauce begins to thicken.
Add the crawfish tails with fat and juice; gently stir to combine.
Allow the crawfish to cook for about 3 minutes, just enough to heat through, then add the green onions. Stir.
Add the reserved pasta water and a drizzle of olive oil to the cooked pasta and stir to loosen up.
Add the pasta to the crawfish mixture, a little at a time. Stir completely to combine.
Add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and mix well. Reserve the remaining parmesan cheese to add to individual dishes, just before serving.
Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Garnish with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and more green onions, if desired.
Cream sauces vary for Crawfish Monica. Many call for solely heavy cream but I find that it makes the sauce too thick. I prefer a combination of heavy cream and regular milk, or a total amount of half and half.
I also add my pasta gradually as individual preference will vary in terms of how much pasta is too much pasta to sauce ratio. *You will likely not use all 16 ounces of pasta.
The traditional, signature Crawfish Monica dish uses rotini pasta but you can certainly substitute any pasta of your choosing. It’s excellent with linguine and also fun with bow tie pasta.
Be sure to read my recipes notes regarding my preference for the cream sauce. I’ve tried it several different ways and personally, I find using all cream makes for a much too thick sauce. I do a combination of cream and milk, but not equal portions which would be the same as half and half.
I sort of just eyeball it, which I understand becomes problematic when following a recipe so maybe for the first time you make use all half and half and see how you like it.
Crawfish Monica Pasta is comfort food defined and while it came to fame being served at Jazz Fest, it’s pretty traditional during Mardi Gras as well. Some other favorites are Pastalaya and this Shrimp & Corn Soup.
Gonna make this tonight!