This simple recipe for shrimp scampi with garlic and lemon is absolutely delicious and satisfying. It not only leaves a long finish on your palate but also a short cleanup in the kitchen.
This shrimp with pasta recipe is my own take on shrimp scampi. I used ingredients that I already had at home and the pasta shape I was in the mood for that day. The rotini really held on the sauce very well, ensuring that we got a mouthful of flavor with each bite.
But before we get into the easy cooking to create this wonderful garlic lemon shrimp scampi recipe, I’d like to take a moment to discuss a couple – hopefully helpful – tips and facts about this incredibly versatile animal.
How to buy shrimp
Buying shrimp is different from buying fish or other seafood. If I have a chance, I’ll buy fresh fish and cook it the same night. But if I have a choice between frozen and fresh shrimp, I’ll buy frozen. Frozen shrimp is a must-have pantry item for us. We almost always have a 2-lb bag of raw, peeled, deveined, tail-on shrimp ready to go in the freezer, just in case we get a sudden craving for shrimp.
But unfortunately, there’s a downside to this versatile animal protein. Harvesting shrimp can cause a lot of environmental damage. There are basically two ways that shrimp are harvested: Different trawling techniques that catch a lot of unwanted other species and/or damage the seafloor; and farming, which can create other environmental issues.
It’s sometimes nearly impossible to know exactly where shrimp came from, but luckily there are some very dedicated people at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There, you’ll find a downloadable PDF document, and they also have a handy dandy app.
How to store and thaw shrimp
That’s the great thing about a bag of shrimp. Buy them frozen, put them in the freezer, and they’ll stay tip-top for up to six months. When I did a little more research on it, I even found that shrimp will last indefinitely if properly frozen at 0°F. My thoughts: what is indefinitely, what does “properly” mean, and how can you not eat them within six months? Especially once you’ve tried this easy shrimp scampi pasta recipe 😉
Thawing is another great thing about frozen shrimp. If suddenly a shrimp craving hits, no sweat. You don’t have to worry about thawing shrimp overnight in the fridge. Just open the bag, grab the amount of shrimp you want to use, put them in a bowl of lukewarm water, and they’ll be ready to cook in 20 minutes.
I’m trying to think about some disadvantages of having a bag of shrimp in the freezer. If you can find one, let me know. Oh wait, power outage.
Not really. Just fire up the grill, toss shrimp with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, stick them on a skewer, and grill a couple minutes per side.
How to clean shrimp
Most frozen shrimp sold in our grocery stores are already deveined and cleaned. All you have to do is take the shell off the tail and pat them dry.
How to devein shrimp
If you do find some fresh shrimp, preferably some large prawns with their heads still on, lucky you! Cleaning takes a little longer, but it’s basically a five step process:
1) Hold prawn and twist head off.
2) With your thumbs, break open the shell from the bottom and remove half of it.
3) Hold the shelled body part and use your other hand to pull off of the remaining shell.
4) Carefully slice down the back.
5) Remove the little dark vein (it’s actually the animal’s digestive tract, but I guess the word “deveined” sounds better than “de-pooped.” 😂
What to do with all the shells and heads? That’s seafood stock gold! If you’re not using it immediately in the dish you’re making, freeze and collect over time until you have a nice batch to make the best seafood stock you’ve ever tasted!
What’s the difference between shrimp and prawn
Here in the USA, most prawns are considered large shrimp. But they are actually two different species. Shrimp have claws on two of their five pairs of legs, whereas on prawns they have claws on three. They also reproduce differently and there are some other differences in how they look.
Prawns are normally more expensive and some claim that they taste sweeter than true shrimp (I can’t confirm that). But as far as cooking and nutritional value goes, they’re interchangeable.
And while we’re at it: What does “shrimp scampi” mean? Just for the fun of it: Scampi is actually an Atlantic lobster species, also known as the Norway Lobster (Nephrops norvegicus). But somehow when we combine shrimp and scampi into a recipe title, it turns into a culinary term. Lucky for us, that doesn’t affect our cooking and enjoyment of this recipe…
How to marinate shrimp
I prefer to just clean them and pat dry. Toss shrimp in a bowl. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and hot pepper flakes. Mix and use within 30 minutes. Be careful if you marinate with acids (like lemon or lime juice). If you marinate for more than 20 minutes, these puppies will start cooking in the acid and you’ll be making ceviche at that point. Ceviche is another delicious way to prepare shrimp, but that’s not our goal here.
How to make Shrimp Scampi Pasta with Garlic and Lemon in one pan
That’s a bit of a long subheading…good thing the cooking doesn’t take as long. We’ve cleaned the shrimp and they’re marinating, as described above.
Grab a pan and heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for about 2 minutes, then add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
Most recipes will tell you something like “heat oil, add shallots and garlic, etc.” Adding shallots and garlic at the same time will do one of two things: a) it will properly sauté the shallots (or onion), but the garlic will overcook and can turn bitter. Or b) the garlic will be perfect, but the shallots will not have had enough time to cook through properly.
Next, add white wine (you should hear a nice “tschhhhhh” when the wine touches the pan) and let it reduce by about half (this should just take a couple minutes). Again, stir and keep an eye on that garlic, so it doesn’t burn.
Add butter and shrimp. Cook shrimp just until they’re pink on the outside…just a couple minutes. You don’t want to cook them all the way through at this point, as they’ll continue cooking in the pasta water.
Add chicken stock (or a mixture of chicken and seafood stock), add pasta, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low boil and put the lid on.
Remember how it’s always recommended to use some of the pasta water in your sauce for flavor and consistency? Well, that’s the beauty that makes this dish so incredibly delicious. You’re making the sauce while the pasta releases it’s starch!
Note: Stir at least once per minute and keep an eye on the liquid level. Depending on the type of pasta and/or how hard you’re boiling it, you might have to add more liquid (water or stock).
Tip: While you’re stirring once per minute anyway, you might as well taste every time. Add a little more salt if needed. That’s probably my favorite part of this recipe…7 minutes of stir, taste, stir, taste, stir, taste. A mantra that works well with most recipes.
Once the pasta is al dente, serve, sprinkle with some chopped chives (or Italian flat leaf parsley) and add lemon juice – if needed. Taste first. I’ve come across a lot of recipes that simply state “add lemon juice” before recommending to taste it again. I don’t know how garlicky or lemony you like your dish. That’s why you taste it first before possibly adding more lemon juice.
Oh, I nearly forgot to mention two more things. Just before I finished making this shrimp with pasta the other night, our neighbor stopped by, offering us a small baguette, still warm from the oven. And I had a delicious bottle of Auspicion Sauvignon blanc in the fridge. All was good in the ville that evening 😀
Shrimp with Pasta Recipe Variations
- Add some halved grape tomatoes when serving
- Add a bag of baby spinach when adding the stock to “green it up”
- What else could we change/add to improve this dish?
Love shrimp? Check out a few more of our shrimp recipes now:
- Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo, Mamma Mia that’s Good!
- Super Easy Sheet Pan Shrimp Boil
- Snappy Shrimp, Hot Pepper Flakes, and Garlic Breath
- Shrimp Tacos with Avocado, Grapefruit, and Creamy Cilantro Sauce
- 6 Easy Last-Minute Seafood Dinner Ideas
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Recipe for Shrimp Scampi with Garlic and Lemon
- 3/4 lb (12 oz) raw shrimp, cleaned and deveined
- 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp kosher sea salt (more as needed)
- 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
- 1 shallot (or small onion), finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/3 c white wine
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1-1/2 c chicken/seafood stock (more as needed)
- 12 oz your favorite pasta
- 2 Tbsp chives (or Italian flat leaf parsley), chopped
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice (maybe...taste first before possibly adding more lemon juice)
- Clean and pat dry shrimp
- Toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil (keep remaining 2 Tbsp for later), salt, pepper, lemon zest, and hot pepper flakes
- Mix and marinate no longer than 30 minutes. If you marinate for more than 20 minutes, you’ll start making ceviche (another delicious way to prepare shrimp, but that’s not our goal here) 😃
- Grab a pan and heat the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat
- Add shallots and cook for about 2 minutes
- Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes
- Add white wine and cook until reduced by half, about 3 minutes
- Add butter and marinated shrimp
- Cook shrimp just until they’re pink on the outside...just a couple minutes.
- Add chicken stock (or a mixture of chicken and seafood stock)
- Add pasta and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low boil and put the lid on.
- Once the pasta is al dente, serve and sprinkle with some chopped chives (or Italian flat leaf parsley)
- Add lemon juice - only if needed. Taste first.
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