A swirl of this pasta and juicy shrimp is everything you want from shrimp scampi: a buttery, lemony garlic sauce coats linguine and shrimp, and the bright bite of red pepper and parsley balances everything. Did I get your attention? Now, let me tell you the second best thing about this recipe: You get to have all this flavor without much fuss!
What I'm trying to say here is, cook this shrimp scampi right away. The pasta's in the pantry; the shrimp's in the freezer; and I know you've got some butter, a lemon, and garlic lurking around the kitchen.
Now, I'm not making any guarantees that it will change your life, but you'll absolutely be coming back to this recipe regularly. Here's how to do it.
What Is Shrimp Scampi?
Scampi can refer to large shrimp or prawns, but is most ubiquitously the quick dish of shrimp sautéed in garlic, butter, and white wine. You might occasionally see shrimp scampi served over toasted bread as a chic appetizer, but for the hearty, most satisfying dinner dish, shrimp scampi with linguine (which holds the weight of the shrimp and soaks up the sauce brilliantly) is the very best version of scampi you can learn.
There's a lot to love about this shrimp scampi. It has just a few steps, and we'll walk you through when to thaw the shrimp, cook the pasta, and start the sauce. Plus, this recipe includes my favorite trick for giving shrimp a quick marinade.
The resulting dish is the epitome of an easy-fancy dinner. It'll look like you fussed over dinner, but you actually didn't — and you should let everyone about how easy it was to make because when it's this easy, you should tell the world about it.
Shopping for Better Shrimp Scampi
- Dry linguine: Skip spaghetti or angel hair pasta for this dish and pick a dry linguine you like. The thicker, flatter shape is ideal for the scampi sauce.
- Dry white wine: Grab a mid-priced bottle of dry white wine — you'll only use a cup, so make sure it is a bottle you can drink with dinner too. Sauvignon blanc is an ideal choice.
- Frozen shrimp: Skip the fresh, uncooked shrimp in the grocery store (a lot of it was once frozen, anyway) and stock a pound (20-25 count) of shrimp in your freezer instead. I find that shell-on tastes better, as the shells protect the shrimp during freezing and thawing, but if you need to skip peeling and buy shell-off you'll trim about 10 minutes off the prep time. Keep that tip in your back pocket when you need this dinner even faster. Avoid already cooked (frozen or otherwise) shrimp for this recipe
Setting Yourself Up for Scampi Success
There are many recipes where we encourage you to cook "in the meanwhile" (i.e., peel the shrimp while the pasta cooks), but with the exception of bringing the pasta water to a boil, scampi is very quick cooking so you'll want to be smart about multitasking. Here's the plan: Start the pasta water first. In the 10 to 15 minutes it takes to come up to boiling, you'll grate and slice the garlic (you need both cuts — and it's worth the work!), peel and juice a lemon, and peel the thawed shrimp before you start cooking the pasta.
Marinating the Shrimp
Don't miss the opportunity to build even more flavor into this dish with a quick marinade for the shrimp. Toss the raw shrimp with salt, grated garlic, and a little olive oil. The shrimp and the marinade will go right into the sauté pan at just the right time, helping to flavor the sauce too.
Oh, and that coating of olive oil protects the shrimp from overcooking or breaking the scampi sauce once they're added to the pan. Really, don't skip this marinade step!
A tale of two garlics: We're asking you to cut the garlic two ways in this recipe. Minced garlic releases more of the garlic's oil, which is useful when flavoring the shrimp marinade. We're using sliced garlic for sautéing in the butter because it's less likely to burn as it cooks.
Making a Flawless Scampi Sauce
This scampi sauce smells amazing; to get the aroma party started, the very first step is to fry a lemon peel, those garlic slices, and some red pepper in butter. This doubling down on lemon and garlic in the shrimp marinade and in this scampi sauce creates layers of flavor. As the lemon and garlic cook, they add a caramelized flavor to the sauce.
Finishing the Pasta with the Shrimp and Sauce
When you get into a good flow with shrimp scampi, you'll be removing the pan of sauce from the stove right about the time the pasta is ready to drain. Drain the pasta quickly and immediately add it to the pan with the shrimp and sauce.
Now, get those tongs ready for tossing! Use the tongs to lift and rotate the pasta over and over until all the strands are coated in sauce. The pan will look a bit dry when you've done this because the pasta will have absorbed most of the sauce. Now your scampi is almost ready for serving!
Serving Up Shrimp Scampi
Do not skip or skimp on the parsley for finishing the shrimp scampi. While this herb is sometimes added to dishes purely for color, here it brings fresh, bright flavor that's critical to balancing the richness of the shrimp.
Be ready to serve the shrimp scampi right away with gusto! This is a dish best enjoyed when everything is hot and saucy right off the heat.
How To Make Shrimp Scampi (with Linguine)
What You Need
raw (20 to 25 count) shrimp, thawed if frozen, peeled and deveined
kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water
unsalted butter, divided
garlic, thinly sliced
1 (2-inch) strip
fresh lemon peel (yellow part only, removed with a vegetable peeler)
red pepper flakes
dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
freshly squeezed lemon juice
dry linguine pasta
finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Measuring cups and spoons
Chef’s knife and cutting board
Large straight-sided skillet
Start heating the pasta water. Before you dive into preparing the shrimp and scampi sauce, fill a large saucepan with water and season with about 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat (this will take about 15 minutes — enough time to prepare the rest of the recipe).
Get ready to cook. Shrimp scampi is very quick cooking, so be sure to have everything ready before you begin cooking the pasta or making the sauce. The shrimp should be thawed if frozen and peeled with the tails removed. Grate 2 cloves of garlic and thinly slice the other 2. Remove a 1-inch section of peel from the lemon and then juice it. Measure out a 1/2 cup of wine — pour a glass for yourself — then measure the olive oil. Finally, chop the parsley.
Marinate the shrimp. Place the shrimp, grated garlic, olive oil, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl and toss to combine; set aside.
Add the pasta to the pasta water. Add the linguine to the boiling water and reduce the heat slightly to maintain a simmer. Set a timer for 8 minutes.
Fry the garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, straight-sided skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter begins to bubble, add the sliced garlic, the strip of lemon peel, and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add the wine and lemon juice and reduce the sauce. Carefully add the wine and lemon juice. There will be plenty of steam at first, and then the whole pan will come to a steady simmer. Scoop 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water from the saucepan into the sauce and cook until the butter sauce reduces slightly, about 2 minutes.
Add the remaining butter to reduced wine sauce and whisk to emulsify. Quickly add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the reduced wine sauce. Whisk briskly until the sauce is lightened in color and thickened, about 1 minute.
Add the shrimp to pan and cook. Add the shrimp to the sauce and cook, stirring regularly, until the shrimp is opaque, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat until the pasta is ready.
Drain the pasta and add to the pan toss with tongs. Check the pasta when the timer goes off. When it is tender, drain. Add the pasta to the shrimp, tossing with tongs to coat the pasta with the sauce.
Add the parsley and serve immediately. Remove the lemon peel from the pan. Add the parsley and toss again to coat. Serve immediately.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.