Shrimp scampi with lemon garlic sauce is an easy gourmet meal made in just 30-minutes! Serve with angel hair pasta, linguine, or crusty bread for a simple yet impressive dinner.
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If you’re looking to break your boring dinner rut, then give this shrimp scampi recipe a try. In just minutes, you’ll be serving up an elegant Italian dish with restaurant-quality results. Serve as a light appetizer or nestled on top of a bed of pasta, and watch it disappear! For maximum flavor, gently sautéing the crustaceans allows the pieces to stay succulent and sweet.
There is an incredible amount of flavor left in the pan after cooking the shrimp. Don’t let it go to waste! Instead, make a white wine and lemon juice reduction, then thicken it with cold butter. This mixture yields a zippy sauce that clings nicely to the seafood. Toss in some ripe chopped tomatoes to complement the seafood and the acidity from the lemons.
Use large fresh or frozen shrimp that are at least 16/20 count per pound. I prefer to defrost them myself before cooking instead of purchasing thawed pieces. If the store leaves them out too long, they can become mushy or develop a strong odor. Prawns or langoustine are suitable substitutes. Just make sure to keep an eye on the cooking time as it can vary depending on size.
Don’t overcook the shrimp
Shrimp cook very quickly, in a matter of minutes. Make sure to have all of your sauce ingredients measured and prepared. Start by gently cooking the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes in butter and olive oil. This process draws out the fat-soluble flavors from the aromatic alliums and more capsaicin from the chili.
Add the shrimp to the pan and cook both sides until it just starts to curl into a loose “C” shape and turns pink and opaque. Remove from the heat to prevent overcooking, and create some space to make the lemon butter garlic sauce.
Make a pan sauce
Once you remove the shrimp from the pan, there will be a ton of leftover salty flavor to make a delicious sauce. Add the zest and juice from a fresh lemon. Together they contribute citrus oils for a more robust lemony flavor and tartness from the citric acid.
Add a dry white wine like chardonnay or pinot grigio to add a buttery, oaky taste. Boil this mixture until it reduces by half, the flavors become incredibly concentrated, and the acids less harsh on the palate. The reduction will be pretty thin, so you’ll need to whisk in butter.
To thicken the sauce
Chilled butter is the best way to thicken the sauce by creating an emulsion. Turn the heat down to low, so the fat in the butter does not rapidly melt once it hits the pan. Otherwise, this will cause a broken, greasy sauce. By gradually whisking the cold butter into the lemon white wine reduction, it can adequately emulsify into a creamy solution that lightly coats the shrimp.
Garnish with fresh ingredients
Chop up some ripe Roma tomatoes and toss them in with the shrimp to complement the slight sweetness of the seafood and acidity from the lemons. For color and texture, you can add other vegetables to the dish, like zucchini, bell peppers, or sauteed spinach. Sprinkle in a generous amount of parsley, or other herbs like sliced basil and oregano work well too.
Serve this with
- Pasta: Angel hair pasta keeps the dish light but turns it into a satisfying entree. Other types of pasta like penne, fettucini, rotini, penne, or spaghetti are also good options.
- Bread: If you’re making shrimp scampi as a shared appetizer, serve it with some bread for dipping into the sauce. Tearing apart pieces of warm crusty Italian bread or slices of focaccia would be divine.
- Gluten-free options: Make a big pot of risotto, spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles.
- Wine: I recommend a buttery Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or sparkling rosé to pair with this dish.
Although the term scampi has been associated with large pieces of shrimp, it’s actually an edible lobster called Dublin Bay Prawn or Norway Lobster. It can be widely found in the Mediterranean, like Italy, or in other parts of Europe such as France, Denmark, and Great Britain. [Source]
Traditionally a lemon and white wine reduction. Shallots and garlic are the base of the sauce and provide an earthy taste with intense aromatics. I like to add a small amount of red chili flakes for a subtle lingering heat. Cold butter is whisked in to thicken the sauce.
Grape juice, but it will add a slight sweetness. Alternatively, vegetable stock or broth adds a more pungent savory taste. In addition, you can add a small amount of white wine vinegar for spice and fermented notes similar to wine. Use about one teaspoon.
Substitutes for white wine
Vegetable stock or broth, or even grape juice, make suitable replacements for white wine in this dish. The grape juice will add a slight sweetness, while the stock adds a savory depth. Although, note that it may take a little longer to reduce the sauce since alcohol has more volatile compounds that evaporate faster than water.
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- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, 16/20 count
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, divided
- ½ cup shallots, ⅛-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ⅓ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup dry white wine, chardonnay recommended
- ½ cup diced roma tomato, ¼-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley, plus more for garnish
- If using frozen shrimp, place them in a colander and run under cold water until no longer icy, about 3 minutes. Alternatively, place in a bowl and submerge in room temperature water until defrosted. Shake to remove excess moisture.
- In a medium bowl, combine shrimp with salt and pepper.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Once the butter melts, add shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using). Stir and cook until shallots are tender and garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes.
- Add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer, turn the heat up to medium. Saute for 2 minutes, not moving the shrimp. Flip them over and finish cooking, about 1 minute. Transfer to a clean bowl.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add in lemon zest, lemon juice, and wine. Bring to a boil and allow the sauce to reduce by half, about 4 to 6 minutes.
- Turn the heat down to low and whisk in 3 tablespoons of cold butter. This process creates a slightly thickened and emulsified consistency.
- Add cooked shrimp, tomatoes, and parsley. Stir and cook until warmed through, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Garnish with black pepper and fresh parsley. Serve with lemon wedges, crusty bread, or pasta.
- Storing: Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Wine Substitute: Use grape juice, vegetable stock, or broth. If desired, also add 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar for pungency.
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