Easy Spaghetti with Shrimp Scampi (30 Minute Meal)

overhead of pasta in a skillet with shrimp and lemon

This easy spaghetti with shrimp scampi recipe is the perfect weeknight dinner: minimal effort, but maximum flavor. Sweet fresh shrimp are tossed with spaghetti and a lemon garlicky sauce.

It's a simple dish that uses what you already have in your pantry (if you need a pantry list of what to stock for easy flavor dinners check out my list here), is ready in 30 minutes, and is guaranteed to be your new favorite go-to weeknight (or weekend) dinner!

Don't forget to serve it with some crusty bread -- the bread is the perfect vehicle for soaking up all the sauce!

If you've been here awhile you know how much I love adding a splash of wine to pretty much everything.  I love the acidic flavor and the dimension it adds to a sauce. For this dish, a crisp white wine adds another layer to the sauce, and the lemon slices, in addition to the fresh lemon juice and lemon zest, add a punch of citrus that elevates the lemony sauce of the dish even more.  This pasta dish is the perfect example that you don't need a thousand ingredients to make a restaurant-worthy meal.  

To elevate this dish even more:

Add a splash of dry white wine -- pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc -- be sure to use a wine you would also drink! It does make a difference in flavor, and, no, you don't have to crack open an expensive bottle.  If you have a favorite $10 bottle, use that.....and then pour a glass to enjoy while you eat. 

Add some cracked black pepper to the finished dish.

Reserve some of the pasta water to add to the sauce at the end. The starch in the water will help the sauce coat every strand of the spaghetti. 

What to do with leftovers:

If you're lucky enough to have leftovers, this stores really well in the fridge. Because there's fish, I would only store it for 1 day. When you're ready for leftovers, gently reheat in a pan. 

If you're cooking for 1 or 2 people:

This recipe is easily cut in 1/2.  If you don't want a ton of leftovers, use 1/2 a package of pasta.  I love a lot of shrimp and a very saucy pasta, so when I cook this for my husband and I, I don't cut the sauce and shrimp ingredients in half.  But, if you like a less "saucy" pasta and are cooking this for 1 or 2 people, then you can easily cut all of the ingredients in half.  

What TV show goes well with this?

You may, or may not, know my husband and I are empty nesters. So, most nights, we eat dinner in front of our current favorite TV show. I thought it would be fun to pair some recipes with TV shows or movies. So if, like us, you love watching a show and eating dinner, I hope you find this fun and helpful!  

Right now we're watching The Tourist on Netflix and it's off to an excellent start! It's about a man (played by Jamie Dornan) who gets in a car accident in the Australian outback (not a spoiler.....this literally happens in the first 5 minutes) and wakes up with no clue who he is, and he needs to figure it out quickly before his mysterious past catches up with him.

And now for the FAQs:

What shrimp should I use?

The best shrimp to use is large shrimp or jumbo shrimp.  Buy the freshest shrimp you can find -- even better if it's wild-caught shrimp, and check to be sure it's raw and isn't peeled (you want the shell on because you'll be using it to add flavor to the sauce)

How to prepare the shrimp:

If frozen, you'll need to defrost the shrimp first.  Place the shrimp in a colander and place 2 bowls nearby.   Once the shrimp is fully thawed, remove the shells and save them in one bowl, placing the peeled shrimp in the 2nd bowl.  Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel (you might need more than one). Check to see if the shrimp needs to be deveined -- look on the back side of the shrimp (the side that curves out) and if there's a small black vein, take a small paring knife to gently lift it out.  If you've ever removed the green center from a garlic clove, deveining shrimp is similar.  Don't skip deveining -- the vein you're removing is their intestine, and you definitely don't want to eat it.

What is shrimp scampi sauce made of?

The sauce is made using parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, white wine, red pepper flakes and shrimp shells.  Traditional scampi sauce is also loaded with garlic, but in this recipe, you'll be tossing your garlic with the shrimp instead.  When you add the shrimp back into the sauce and toss with the pasta, the garlic flavor will infuse throughout the whole dish.  If you love garlic, you can also add a minced clove to the parsley lemon sauce.  Another way I love to infuse even more flavor into the sauce is to add the shrimp shells (which is the reason you'll be straining the sauce later). All of this will combine to make an insanely flavorful lemon butter sauce.  

Can I use lobster instead?

Of course!  You can use lobster meat or langoustines instead -- either would be delicious! The cooking time would remain about the same for either one.  

Can I leave out the wine?

Not a problem at all! Use fish stock or chicken broth or chicken stock instead.  And if you don't have either, vegetable broth will work, too.

Why are you using the shrimp shells?

Using the shrimp shells will create a ton more flavor in the dish. In essence you're creating something similar to a shrimp stock....not exactly the same, but close.  Because you're using shrimp shells it's incredibly important to remember to strain the sauce before tossing it with the pasta.  This will ensure no little bits of shells get into the finished dish -- you don't want someone biting down on a shell!

Can I use a different pasta?

Absolutely! Use whatever's in your pantry, or your favorite pasta.   Angel hair pasta, linguine pasta, even penne pasta would all work!

Where's the Parmesan cheese?

Traditionally, Parmesan cheese isn't used in any pasta dishes with fish.  The flavors tend not to mesh that well, but if you love to add it, then, by all means go for it! You should eat and cook what makes you happy!

OTHER SHRIMP RECIPES

GARLIC HONEY SHRIMP

SHRIMP TACOS

SHRIMP FRIED RICE

ROASTED SHRIMP AND ORZO PASTA

overhead of pasta in a skillet with shrimp and lemon

Easy Spaghetti with Shrimp Scampi (30 minute meal)

Tender shrimp are cooked with a generous amount of lemon and garlic and then tossed with pasta to make an elevated restaurant worthy dinner.
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Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 box spaghetti
  • 3 tablespoons  unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons  minced garlic  (4 cloves)
  • 1 pound  large shrimp (about 16 shrimp), peeled and deveined (if using frozen, defrost first) -- SAVE THE SHRIMP SHELLS! (refer to about FAQs if you're wondering why you need to save the shrimp shells)
  • 1/3 cup  chopped fresh Italian leaf parsley
  • 1/2 lemon, zest grated
  • 1/4 cup  freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/4 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
  • splash of white wine, about 1 cup use any light white wine -- pinot gris, pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
  • 1/8 teaspoon  hot red pepper flakes, optional

Instructions

  • Thanks so much for popping by!! I hope you LOVE this recipe! If you have any questions, refer to the FAQs above. If you have more questions, leave a comment below. Happy Cooking!
  • Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, minus 3 minutes for al dente.
  • Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed pan with high sides, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat with the garlic. Adding the garlic in the beginning will help prevent it from burning.
  • As soon as the garlic starts to dance around and smells fragrant, after about 1-3 minutes,  add the shrimp, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper and sauté until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 3-5 minutes, stirring often.
  • Remove shrimp from the heat and set aside on a platter or plate. Add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, white wine and red pepper flakes and reserved shrimp shells. Toss to combine. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes. This will allow the shrimp shells to infuse even more flavor into the sauce. If the liquid is evaporating too quickly add a splash more wine.
  • Strain the sauce and add it back to the pan. You don't want to skip this step. Straining ensures that no bits of shell gets into your finished dish.
  • When the pasta is done, reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain and add to the shrimp. If you don't think the pasta will fit in your pan with the shrimp, add the pasta back to the pasta pot you cooked it in, and then add the shrimp and sauce to the pasta. Toss well, adding a few tablespoons of pasta water to help the sauce coat the pasta. Serve with an extra sprinkle of parsley. Traditionally, Parmesan cheese is never added to pasta that has fish in it, but my son loves to add it, so you do you!
Have you made this recipe?I'd love to know! Leave a comment or recipe rating and tag me @amenuforyou on social media!

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