In our Spicy Chorizo Pasta you’ll find little bits of salty spice-filled Mexican chorizo in each creamy puddle-filled shellbow bite, tender seasoned chicken, and just enough creamy sauce to coat the noodles ever so slightly. This easy, unassuming pasta is a recipe you’ll want in your back pocket when you’re craving comfort, a little bit of spice, and whole lotta pasta.
Spicy Chorizo Pasta
They say first impressions are everything, but I disagree. Because if you simply take a brief look at our Spicy Chorizo Pasta you might only see the vibrant orange hue, which might lead you to believe there are tomatoes involved (there aren’t) and a creamy sauce swirled between cute shelbow noodles. And while that portrayal is somewhat accurate (minus the tomato), what you don’t see lingering beneath are the teeny tiny bits of spicy Mexican chorizo littered throughout each creamy puddle-filled shellbow. It’s what gives this easy pasta it’s gorgeous color and also what flavors practically the entire dish.
Also involved? Tender bite-sized pieces of smoked-paprika spiced chicken, plenty of garlic, and a burst of citrus from freshly squeezed lemon juice.
While this spicy chorizo pasta is admittedly not the healthiest choice in our archives (You can find healthier options here, here and here), it’s quick and the more indulgent ingredients can be scaled back a touch to make it a little bit more figure-friendly.
Ingredients in Spicy Chorizo Pasta
Chorizo. You’ll want to use Mexican chorizo for this recipe. Usually it comes in a long tube near the other sausages in the refrigerated section. Chorizo works two different ways here. First, it’s one of two proteins. Second, not only does the chorizo itself add significant flavor to the pasta itself, but the oil and spices that are released from the chorizo on to the bottom of the pan season the sauce.
What’s the difference between Mexican Chorizo and Spanish chorizo
There are two different kinds of chorizo – Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo. Spanish chorizo is a hard sausage that’s been cured and smoked similar to an andouille or polish sausage. Mexican chorizo on the other hand is raw, similar to a bulk breakfast or Italian sausage so it has to be cooked fully before you can consume it. I love Mexican chorizo in egg dishes, enchiladas or pupusas and prefer Spanish chorizo as a charcuterie or in something similar to paella.
Chicken + spices. You could stick with just chorizo, but I like the addition of chicken to add a little bit more low-fat protein to the mix. When the end goal is bite-sized pieces, we always reach for chicken tenders instead of a breast. We marinate the chicken in a little bit of olive oil, smoked paprika, garlic, salt and pepper.
Onion + garlic. Even though chorizo has garlic and onion in the sausage itself, I also like to flavor the sauce with both items as well. I prefer to have little pieces of garlic throughout, but if you don’t, you can grate the garlic.
White wine. To get all the little bits of onion and sausage at the bottom of the pan, use a little bit of white wine to deglaze.
Chicken stock. It’s no secret our Spicy Chorizo Pasta is a cream sauce at its base, but we like to lighten up a bit with an equal amount of chicken stock. You still get that creamy texture, but cut the calories and fat a touch.
Cream. Just a little bit!
Pasta. My favorite pasta to use for any type of cream sauce is something that will hold little pocks of creamy sauce. Penne and rigatoni could be good options, but shellbows are the best. Their wide opening allows for the little bits of spicy chorizo to be trapped inside creating an almost stuffed-like texture in the pasta. Our favorite shellbows are by Dellalo but any brand will work.
Let’s make Spicy Chorizo Pasta
Brown the sausage. Heat a large cast iron skillet (we use a 12″) or a similar sized skillet to a medium-high heat. Add the chorizo. Spread it out in the bottom of the pan and let it brown. Try not to move it too much so the surface can brown. After the chorizo has cooked for a bit, use a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Continue to brown until the chorizo is cooked through.
Cook the chicken. When the chorizo has been fully cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer the chorizo to a colander so the fat can drain. If there’s any more than a tablespoon of fat left in the skillet. remove it. Add the marinated chicken to the skillet. Let the chicken brown and then flip over. Remove from the pan and transfer to the same plate as the chorizo.
Cook the aromatics. Turn the heat down to medium and add olive oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Sauté until it starts to soften. Add garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes.
Make the sauce. Stir in the chicken stock, cream, and spices. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, it should take about five minutes.
Cook the pasta. It’s important your pasta is a little bit under aldente, so don’t cook it until the sauce is about a minute away from a thickened state. Cook it about 1-2 minutes shy of aldente.
Toss. Add the chorizo back to pan with the sauce. Toss. Transfer the pasta to the sauce and chorizo. Add 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water. Gently stir everything together.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Make sure to drain all but one tablespoon of the grease rendered from the chorizo. I also like to drain the chorizo as well to make sure all of it drips off. If you really want to get the extra grease off, you could also rinse the chorizo under cold water.
- When you sauté the onion, add in a sliced bell pepper for extra veggies.
- You want to make sure to undercook the pasta, it will continue to cook in the sauce and once the noodles overcook they have a tendency to get mushy and break. You want each shellbow to have a nice bite to it.
- To make this a little more figure friendly, you could half the amount of chorizo and cream. Replace the cream with pasta water. Make sure to add extra spice to replace the rest of the chorizo.
- For a cheesy take on this spicy chorizo pasta, you could sprinkle in 1/2 cup of pepper jack cheese, toss until the cheese has melted. Another option would be to sprinkle the cheese on top and cover until it’s melted. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
What to serve with Spicy Mexican Sausage
- Whenever I’m serving something on the heavier side, I like to pair it with a light, bright side dish. This Everyday Kale Salad is one of our favorites.
- We also love this easy Artichoke Salad.
- For extra protein, whip up our Chickpea and Cucumber Salad.
Other tex-mex dishes we love
- Enchiladas Verdes are light, and full of tangy tomatillos.
- These Easy 5-Ingredient Enchiladas would be another great vessel to sneak in a little bit of cooked Mexican chorizo.
- Our One Pot Mexican Pasta is a hit with everyone and it’s super quick and easy to throw together.
- 14 oz chicken tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1-inch)
- 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp salt, divided
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 14 oz Mexican chorizo
- 3 large garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 lb shellbow pasta
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup pasta water or more
- Large skillet
- large pot
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season with a generous amount of salt It should be almost as salty as the sea. Add chicken to a large bowl. Drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and black pepper. Use hands to coat the chicken. Set aside.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet (we use a 12") or a similar sized skillet with high sides to a medium-high heat. Add the chorizo. Spread it out in the bottom of the pan and let it brown. Try not to move it too much so the surface can brown. After the chorizo has cooked for a bit, use a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Continue to brown until the chorizo is cooked through, it should take about 8-10 minutes.
- When the chorizo has been fully cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer the chorizo to a colander so the fat can drain. If there is any more than a tablespoon of fat left in the skillet, remove it. Add the marinated chicken to the skillet. Let the chicken brown and then flip over. Continue to brown until cooked through. Remove from the pan and transfer to the same plate as the chorizo.
- Turn the heat down to medium and add two teaspoons of olive oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Saute the onion until it starts to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes. Be sure the garlic doesn't burn.
- Add in the white wine. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the bits at the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 1-2 minutes and then stir in the chicken stock, cream, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 5-6 minutes.
- When the sauce has thickned, drop the pasta into the boiling water. Cook it about 1-2 minutes shy of aldente.
- While the pasta cooks, add the chorizo and chicken back to pan with the sauce. Toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Use a sieve to transfer the pasta to the sauce and chorizo. If you don't have a sieve, remove 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain pasta in a colander and then transfer to the sauce. Add 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water, parmesan cheese and lemon juice to the pasta, sauce and meat. Gently stir everything together until the cheese has melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.