Butter. Garlic. Shrimp. How could we improve on that magic trio? How about we toss it into a steaming bowl of pasta and top it with crispy seasoned breadcrumbs? Grab a fork and meet me in the kitchen!
One of my favorite meals on our recent trip to Italy came on the outskirts of Rome. Our delightful AirBnB host, Nino, visited with us when we arrived, and outlined his vision for what our day should look like, including where we should eat lunch, where we should stop for gelato, and the precise streets we should take to get to both.
Nino's commitment to my Italian experience was unparalleled.
We wandered through town to his recommended trattoria and studied the Italian wording on the menu. Our server pointed to a shrimp pasta entree and said it was her favorite.
And then this lightly spiced, lemony, garlicky pasta with juicy shrimp and crispy breadcrumbs showed up and rocked my world.
It was reminiscent of what we know as shrimp scampi fettuccine in the United States, with the garlic, butter and crispy breadcrumbs. But it also had a lovely creamy texture from just a touch of parmesan and the pasta water, a hint of spice from red pepper, and mounds of crispy breadcrumbs.
Start to finish, one of my favorite dinners to eat or serve friends and family. It's simple, but so memorable.
Let's make this easy shrimp scampi fettuccine recipe!
Here is what you'll need to make Shrimp Scampi Fettuccine:
- olive oil
- fresh garlic cloves
- salt and pepper
- red pepper flakes
- shrimp stock
- dry white wine
- fresh lemon juice and zest
- fresh or thawed shrimp
- fettuccine noodles
- Parmesan cheese
- fresh parsley
- homemade breadcrumbs (or panko)
Step by step instructions for the best shrimp scampi fettuccine pasta recipe:
To begin, bring a pot of water up to boil for your pasta.
As it is heating, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add olive oil, diced shallot and garlic, along with red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper.
Sauté until fragrant and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes.
Add shrimp stock, lemon juice and white wine to the pan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, cooking for 4-5 minutes to reduce and condense the flavor.
While sauce is reducing, drop the pasta into the large pot of salted water, which should be boiling. Cook 2 minutes less than package instructions (the pasta will finish cooking in the shrimp scampi sauce). Reserve a half cup pasta water from the pot, then drain and rinse the pasta. Set aside.
While pasta is cooking, add olive oil to a small skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs, salt and red pepper flakes to the pan and saute until deep golden brown.
Remove from heat and add fresh chopped parsley and lemon zest. Stir and set aside.
Once sauce has reduced by about half, add the peeled and cleaned shrimp to the pot and simmer in the sauce for about 2 minutes, so the shrimp cooks while giving itself a wine and garlic butter bath.
Add al dente pasta and toss thoroughly in the sauce.
If more liquid is needed, add the reserved pasta water (you will likely need at least a few tablespoons). Add Parmesan cheese and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning.
I like to mix a handful of the seasoned breadcrumbs (about ½ cup) right into the hot pasta before plating. The garlicky sauce helps the crumbs stick to the pasta noodles and create a beautiful texture.
Plate the pasta and top with the remaining breadcrumb mixture and serve immediately with lemon wedges.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions:
Any shape you like works here. I've made it with rigatoni and bucatini. Angel hair pasta is very hard to keep al dente, so that's the only shape I would avoid. I love the saucy, slurpiness of long noodles in this recipe, but you choose what works best for you.
Fresh tomatoes (especially cherry tomatoes) would add a beautiful acidity to the shrimp and garlic sauce. A few handfuls of fresh spinach wilted down into the pasta would add a lovely pop of green veggies, as would small florets of broccoli.
Italian recipes like this one that are heavy on the carbs get the perfect balance from a Mediterranean Tossed Salad. You should also double down on those carbs with a loaf of crusty bread.
I love the texture of dried pasta here, which stays a little more firm. But fresh pasta or even homemade pasta would be lovely. Just monitor closely so as to not overcook it before adding it to the shrimp and garlic butter sauce.
If you've been hanging around long, you know I live in a part of the world where fresh shrimp is abundant. And I still eat frozen shrimp most often. Quality frozen shrimp retains freshness because it is often flash-frozen just after harvesting. It can be more economical, and it's certainly more convenient to grab a bag from the freezer rather than traipse to the fish market every time the mood for prawns strikes. So do yourself a favor, skip the fancy seafood counter, buy the frozen shrimp and feel good about it.
My go-to white wine substitute is stock (in this case, shrimp) with a squeeze of acid like lemon juice.
If you're pescatarian, vegetable stock is your best option. If you're not pescatarian, chicken stock or chicken broth will work!
To store, move to an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to two days. To reheat, add a few tablespoons of stock to a saucepan with the cold pasta and heat gently over medium until heated through.
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