A contrast of rich and bright flavors, this succulent Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta will be on your table in just 20 minutes.
When you need a meal in a hurry, you can't go wrong with shrimp. It’s sweet, tender, juicy, and cooks quickly. Whether you're grilling it, cooking it on the stovetop, or roasting it in the oven, it takes very little time and effort to transform shrimp into a dinner that everyone will love.
This Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta recipe is a great alternative when the temptation strikes to call for takeout. You’ll have the best of both worlds: a restaurant-quality meal that you can get on the table fast, perfect for busy weeknights. It's one of those easy recipes using simple pantry staples and freezer ingredients that you may already have on hand.
Ingredients You Need to Make Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta
- Pasta: any long and thin pasta you have in your pantry will work for this. Whether it’s spaghetti, linguine, fettuccini, or angel hair, simply follow the package directions to cook until firm to the bite (al dente).
- Shrimp: Medium or large shrimp work well here.
- Butter: Your choice of salted or unsalted butter.
- Olive Oil: Use whatever variety you have on hand.
- Parsley: Fresh, flat leaf Italian parsley.
- Lemon: You'll need the juice and zest.
- Parmesan Cheese: Grated for finishing the dish - optional.
- Garlic: 5 large garlic cloves
- Crushed Red Pepper: Just enough for a hint of heat.
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper and Kosher Salt: To taste.
You'll notice that there is no heavy cream. Instead, the shrimp cook in a creamy sauce of butter, olive oil, and plenty of garlic. Fresh lemon juice and zest give this dish its distinctive zing, similar to the Italian classic, Pasta al Limone. And fresh parsley adds earthy, bright flavor, while crushed red pepper flakes add gentle heat and a pop of color.
Though this pasta dish is simple to prepare, it's elegant enough for company or a date night. It plates up beautifully and tastes like it took hours to make, though it takes just 20 minutes from start to finish.
Mistakes to Avoid
A common mistake when preparing shrimp is to overcook it. Take care to sauté it just until pink and cooked through, so your shrimp will be juicy and tender, not tough and rubbery. The same goes for overcooking pasta. It should cooked until tender, but retain some bite (al dente).
This recipe is delicious both with and without parmesan cheese. Without it, the pasta has a fresh simplicity that allows the fresh lemon flavor to shine. With parmesan, you add another layer of flavor that mellows the lemon and adds complexity. A splash of white wine along with the lemon is also an option. And to make this dish a meal on its own, toss in a few handfuls of baby spinach at the end. No shrimp? Make this Lemon Garlic Pasta instead.
What to Serve Alongside
- Arugula Salad (This simple salad is easy to prepare and a perfect match for pasta.)
- Wedge Salad (The classic steakhouse side dish is always a good idea.)
- Creamy Cucumber Salad (So creamy and delicious, but just shy of 100 calories per generous serving!)
How to Make Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta
Step 1: Cook pasta according to package directions until firm to the bite. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.
Step 2: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook olive oil and butter until sizzling. Add garlic and red pepper flakes; cook and stir 30 seconds. Add shrimp; cook and stir until pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
Step 3: Once pasta is cooked and drained, return shrimp mixture in skillet to medium heat. Add pasta and ¼ cup of cooking liquid; stir until heated through, adding more cooking liquid if pasta is too dry.
Step 4: Remove skillet from heat and stir in parsley and lemon juice and zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving platter or bowl and sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired. Serve.
Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta
- 12 ounces dried spaghetti or other long, thin pasta
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 5 large garlic cloves minced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more
- 1 pound medium shrimp peeled and deveined
- 1 large lemon juice and zest
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 ounces parmesan cheese freshly grated, optional
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta in boiling water until firm to the bite (al dente), about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes; cook and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add shrimp; cook and stir until shrimp is just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Once you've drained the pasta, set skillet with the shrimp mixture over medium heat. Add drained, cooked pasta and ¼ cup of reserved pasta water; toss to coat. Cook and stir until heated through, adding more pasta water if pasta seems too dry.
- Remove pasta from heat and stir in fresh lemon juice and zest, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl or platter; top with grated parmesan cheese if using and serve.
- Use any long, slender pasta you like for this recipe.
- I switch back and forth on finishing this dish with parmesan cheese. Sometimes I want just the clean bright flavors of lemon and parsley with the sweet juicy shrimp. Up to you!