Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara

published Apr 16, 2022
Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara Recipe

This Olive Garden-inspired chicken and shrimp carbonara is easier than you think to pull together at home.

Serves4 to 6

Prep15 minutes

Cook20 minutes to 25 minutes

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a bowl of chicken and shrimp carbonara with spaghetti in a round white bowl sitting on top of a white plate.
Credit: Meleyna Nomura

Creamy, dreamy carbonara is a classic Roman pasta dish. Popular both in Italy and stateside, it gets an Italian-American twist at the Olive Garden. Their wildly popular chicken and shrimp carbonara is easier than you think to pull together at home.

What is Carbonara Sauce Made of?

Traditionally, carbonara is made of guanciale, Pecorino Romano cheese, and eggs. It’s all tossed with hot pasta and starchy pasta cooking water, lightly cooking the eggs and creating a glossy sauce that coats the noodles. Black pepper, a common seasoning in Rome, is showered over the whole thing for punchy flavor and spice.

How Does Olive Garden Make Their Carbonara Sauce?

The big surprise about Olive Garden’s chicken and shrimp carbonara is that it is egg free! Olive Garden’s chicken and shrimp carbonara is more of a cream-based alfredo sauce infused with carbonara flavorings. Sliced red bell pepper is added for color and the chicken and shrimp combo add to the over-the-top vibe the Italian-American restaurant chain is known for.

My version of the Olive Garden twist on the Roman classic uses bacon instead of the more traditional guanciale. I like a combination of both Pecorino Romano cheese for its sharpness and Parmesan for its smooth depth of flavor. I add a good measure of pasta cooking water instead of relying solely on cream, creating a sauce that is thick and rich without being overly heavy.

What Pasta Shape Do I Use for Carbonara?

Carbonara works well with a variety of pasta shapes, but look for thicker options that will hold up to the cream sauce.

  • Long, sturdy shapes like bucatini or linguine stand up to the thick sauce and hearty add-ins. Skip angel hair for this dish.
  • Chunky, short shapes like rigatoni or farfalle hold onto the sauce and pair well with the shrimp and chicken.
Credit: Meleyna Nomura

Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara Recipe

This Olive Garden-inspired chicken and shrimp carbonara is easier than you think to pull together at home.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 pound

    dried bucatini pasta

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1

    boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 8 ounces)

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 1 teaspoon

    coarsely ground black pepper, divided, plus more for serving

  • 1

    medium red bell pepper

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 1 ounce

    Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup firmly packed freshly grated or 1/3 cup store-bought grated), plus more for serving

  • 1 ounce

    Pecorino Romano cheese (1/2 cup firmly packed freshly grated or 1/3 cup store-bought grated), plus more for serving

  • 12

    uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (6 to 8 ounces)

  • 4 slices

    bacon (about 4 ounces), cold from the refrigerator

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1 1/4 cups

    heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, season 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast with 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the black pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook until it is well-browned and it releases easily from the pan, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip and reduce the heat to medium. Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes more. Transfer to a clean cutting board. Reserve the skillet.

  2. Add 1 pound dried bucatini pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions until al dente, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut 1 medium red bell pepper into 1/4-inch thick slices and mince 2 garlic cloves. Finely grate 1 ounce Parmesan cheese and 1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese if needed (about 1/2 packed cup each), or measure out 1/3 cup of each. Peel and devein 12 medium shrimp, and season with 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the black pepper. Cut 4 slices bacon crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces.

  3. Add the bacon to the reserved skillet and cook over medium heat until browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.

  4. Add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter to the pan. Add the bell pepper and garlic, season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pepper is bright red and crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 1/4 cups heavy cream and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the shrimp in the last 1 minute of simmering time. Reduce the heat to low to keep warm if the pasta is not ready yet. Cut the chicken breast crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.

  5. When the pasta is ready, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add to skillet. Return to a simmer over medium heat. Add the chicken, bacon, and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water, and toss to combine. Add the cheeses and remaining 3/4 teaspoon black pepper. Continue tossing the pasta with tongs to evenly distribute and coat with sauce, 1 to 2 minutes total. Add more pasta water 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time as needed until the pasta is lightly coated with a slightly thin sauce (it will thicken as it cools). Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Serve immediately, garnishing with more black pepper and grated cheese as desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.