Friends and Foodways: Pasta Monica

My friend, LSU classmate and sorority sister, Monica Joseph Butler Johnson, was a woman in a thousand: exuberant, intelligent and the life of every space she ever stepped into. In south Louisiana, it’s not a party unless there’s some seafood pasta, and I humbly dedicate my Pasta Monica to the girl from St. James, Louisiana who embodied everything that’s special about our part of the world.

Pasta Monica is creamy, buttery and spicy. A winning combination.

This recipe serves 4.

A few of the things you’ll need. 

What I used:

8 oz. dry pasta

4 oz. pork (or turkey) tasso

4 oz. high-quality smoked sausage or andouille

1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

4 TBSP butter

4-5 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 lb. fresh gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped

1/4 tsp paprika

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Tony Chachere’s to taste

2 cups half and half

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1/4 tsp lemon pepper seasoning

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

What I did:

Boil pasta according to “al dente” instructions on package. This is usually 3-4 minutes less than normal. Do not overcook. (Setting a kitchen timer helps.) Drain and set aside.

I used an ornamental, lily-shaped pasta from Da Vinci, found in my local Rouse’s supermarket. Do not overcook your pasta. Leave it al dente or it will be mushy at the end.

While the pasta boils, slice tasso into small, 1/2-inch cubes. Slice the sausage lengthwise and then each half lengthwise again, chopping it into 1/2-inch pie-shaped wedges.

Smoked sausage on the left and pork tasso on the right.

Place tasso, sausage and onion in a large sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring every few minutes to avoid burning, 4-6 minutes, or until onions are translucent.

Add the butter, garlic, shrimp and green onion, continuing to stir over medium heat until shrimp are slightly pink. Add paprika, cayenne and about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of Tony’s here, stirring well.


Add half and half, bay leaf, parsley and lemon pepper, turning heat to medium high. Stir carefully until sauce begins to boil and then return heat to medium. Cook and stir every few minutes for 10 minutes. Sauce will thicken.

Test sauce here for taste, adding Tony’s and any other seasonings of choice by the 1/8th teaspoon until desired level is achieved.

Turn heat to low and add spinach, stirring it in well and cooking another 3-4 minutes. Remove bay leaf and discard.

I used one cup of spinach, but you can add more. What looks like a bunch will “disappear” upon cooking after a few minutes.

Add pasta and toss thoroughly to coat.


Remove from heat. Let sit for five minutes and serve.




4 thoughts on “Friends and Foodways: Pasta Monica

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