I dare you not to twirl your fork into this simple pasta dish! Once your pasta pot is at a rolling boil, you’re about 10 minutes away from noodly bliss. Succulent shrimp and linguini are tossed with a super-quick tomato cream sauce — one that's fragrant with aromatic garlic, shallots, and white wine. Seriously, what’s not to like?
Shrimp pasta feels like such a treat, maybe because I don’t often think to make it, or maybe because seafood dinners are a bit of an extravagance. Or maybe it’s the white wine and heavy cream (just a tablespoon per serving is plenty to coat the noodles in silky sauce), which add sophistication and richness to the simple, fresh tomato sauce. Perhaps it’s the imperative to serve it with a glass of crisp, dry Chardonnay — you’ve already opened the bottle to make the dish, after all!
Whether you’ve planned ahead and defrosted your shrimp or just pulled them out of the deep-freeze, you can pull this together on a weeknight, for sure. If I’ve got the wherewithal the night before, I’ll move a bag of shrimp from freezer to fridge. If they’re frozen solid at dinnertime, I’ll throw them in a bowl and place it in the sink, under a very slow stream of cold running water. Depending on their size, the shrimp will defrost in anywhere from seven to 15 minutes, about the amount of time it takes your pot of pasta water to come to a rolling boil.
You can also use either precooked or raw shrimp — go ahead and pick up whatever variety you’re able to find in the size you prefer. I usually go for a fairly small size since they cook in a flash. The ones I used for this recipe were labeled “medium,” with a count of 70 to 110 per pound. On a traditional size chart, these shrimp would be labeled “extra small” or even “tiny.” Rely on the numbers rather than the descriptors when choosing your shrimp — size labeling is wildly inconsistent, but the per-pound counts don’t lie.
If you’re using raw shrimp, let them simmer in the sauce until they’re mostly pink — a final addition of piping-hot pasta will help them cook all the way through. Precooked shrimp can be added right along with the pasta, since they just need to be warmed in the skillet.
Shrimp Pasta with White Wine Sauce
1 pound peeled and cooked medium shrimp (70 to 110 per pound), defrosted (see Recipe Note)
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 quarts water
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 pound linguine or other long pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium shallots, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup Chardonnay or other dry white wine
2 medium (about 1/2-pound) Roma or San Marzano tomatoes, sliced lengthwise through the stem
Basil leaves to garnish (optional)
Remove the shrimp and heavy cream from the refrigerator and place on the counter to allow them to come to room temperature while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
Bring the water to a boil in a large (5- to 6-quart) pasta pot over high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, add the 1 tablespoon sea salt, stir to dissolve, and then add the pasta. Bring back up to a rolling boil, lower heat to medium-high, and let cook until al dente, about 7 minutes or according to package instructions.
Ladle a cup of pasta water into a measuring cup and set aside, then drain the pasta into a colander.
While the pasta is boiling, prepare the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt to the skillet, and sauté until soft and translucent, but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine to the skillet and stir.
Using a box grater or flat grater, grate the tomatoes, flesh side against the grater, directly into the skillet. The tomato flesh will be grated, but the skins will not. Discard the skins.
Stir the tomatoes into the skillet sauce and bring up to a simmer. Cook until the sauce has thickened slightly and no raw alcohol aroma remains, about 5 minutes. Add the drained pasta, shrimp, and cream to the skillet, and toss to combine. If the sauce is too dry, add a splash of pasta water.
Use a pasta server or tongs to arrange the pasta in individual servings, twirling it into a spiral as you nestle it onto the center of each plate. Garnish with basil and serve immediately.
Defrosting shrimp: If you think ahead, transfer the shrimp from the freezer to the fridge the night before you make this recipe so they have time to thaw. Otherwise, empty the shrimp into a bowl and place it under cool, running water to thaw; the shrimp will take 7 to 15 minutes to thaw.
Raw shrimp: If you are using raw shrimp, add them to the skillet before you add the pasta and cream. Cover the skillet and let them cook until pink around the edges, with just a touch of translucence in the center, 2 to 5 minutes depending on their size.
(Image credits: Coco Morante)