Shrimp Scampi With Pasta

[Photographs: Daniel Gritzer]

My tricked-out shrimp scampi recipe was originally developed in its carb-free appetizer form, with no explanation for how one might add pasta—the other very popular way to serve it. But the recipe needs little adjustments here and there to make it work better for pasta, almost entirely in the form of scaling the sauce up to account for the added mass of noodles

As in the original, I brine the shrimp briefly with baking soda and salt, a trick we use from time to time here on Serious Eats to ensure incredibly plump shrimp, but in this recipe I also cut the shrimp into two pieces, since I find whole large shrimp don’t interact with the noodles all that well. Just a little smaller, though, and they can work their into the pasta strands better, not just ride on top of them.

I quickly sauté the shrimp over high heat to build flavor and cook them rapidly, then remove from the pan until just before serving. This guarantees they don’t overcook while you build the rest of the sauce and boil the pasta.

I call for a good deal more butter, olive oil, and garlic here, since we’re not just saucing a pound of shrimp, but a pound of pasta on top of that. As for the pasta, take your pick. Long dry noodles like spaghetti and linguine are the most popular, though the pieces of shrimp will work really, really well with big tubes of rigatoni, or even those extra-large rings of paccheri.

As with my original recipe, I use dry vermouth instead of white wine. It brings more flavor to what’s already a bold, garlicky sauce, and it keeps longer once opened, which makes it a great kitchen wine in general. I brighten the sauce with some fresh lemon juice along with freshly grated zest from that same lemon, but then deviate one final time from the original by pulling back on its more complex herb mixture of parsley, tarragon, and chives (yes, I know that’s awfully French, but it’s also awfully good) and using just parsley. Could you use that herb mixture here? Definitely, but I don’t mind going a simpler route with pasta (I also don’t mind skipping the other herbs in the no-pasta version, if parsley is all I have in my crisper drawer).

Finally, this rendition also includes pasta cooking instructions, which walk you through the process of finishing the pasta with some of its starchy water for a silky, noodle-glazing sauce. It’s the same technique we’ve tried to teach with so many pasta recipes, but it never hurts to see how it plays out in each particular case.