Shrimp scampi is the OG of quick—yet impressive—meals. It’s perfect for a weeknight dinner, as well as a dinner for entertaining guests. Once you get the basics down, you don’t really need a recipe to make it. And if you keep a bag of shrimp in the freezer at all times, you’ll pretty much be able to whip it up whenever you don’t know what else to make for dinner.
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This Italian dish is a classic bad-ass meal because it’s so freakin’ easy. You can throw it together in about 15 minutes. Literally. OK, maybe 20ish, if you mince your garlic slowwwwwly. That’s what’s so great about it. There’s not much prep work. Ideally, you’ll have some Italian parsley for color and fresh lemons for brightness, but if you don’t, this will still taste delicious. That buttery, complex, soulful sea flavor is all there even without those vivid garnishes.
Fun fact: Scampi is actually the Italian name for a type of small crustacean called langoustines (more like tiny lobsters than shrimp)—but in America, “scampi” has come to signal this particular preparation of shrimp cooked in wine, butter, garlic, and lemon.
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What You Need to Make Shrimp Scampi
- A large frying pan
- 3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
- 1-4 large cloves garlic, minced (adjust the amount to taste)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound raw, peeled, deveined shrimp (defrosted if frozen), patted dry; leave the tails on for presentation points, or take them off to make eating easier
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 lemon, sliced, seeds discarded
- 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
- pasta, like linguine (or crusty bread or rice) to serve
Steps to Making Shrimp Scampi
1. Place the pan over medium-high heat and let warm up. Melt the butter in the olive oil (if using; this helps keep the butter from burning).
2. Add minced garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. It should be fragrant, but should not take on any color.
3. Add the wine to the pan and cook about 1 minute. You want to cook off the alcohol smell and slightly reduce the amount of wine, which won’t take long if your pan is hot enough.
4. Add parsley and lemon slices to the pan, then add shrimp. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, or until pink and opaque.
5. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
- Add red pepper flakes for a little bite.
- Use chicken or vegetable broth in place of wine.
- Add another fresh herb in place of parsley.
- Try stirring a little jarred pesto into your sauce at the end. (Great if you’re out of fresh herbs but craving that touch of green.)
- Add a sprinkle of parmesan just before serving.
How to Serve Shrimp Scampi
These are some of our favorite ways to serve it up:
Shrimp scampi in its buttery sauce is honestly delicious eaten right out of the pan with some crusty bread to mop it all up, but if you’ve got company, stuffing it into crusty rolls is a nicer touch. (While we left the lemons and shrimp tails intact for the sake of the photo shoot, your dining companions would surely appreciate your removing them first.) Get our Shrimp Scampi Sandwich recipe.
Twirling shrimp scampi with a thin noodle is the classic option, but it’s going to taste great with any pasta you happen to have (or with zoodles, for that matter). If you go with pasta, when you drain it, be sure to save up to a cup of the starchy pasta cooking water to add back to enrich the sauce (and increase the volume so it coats every last strand). Get our Lemon-Parsley Shrimp Pasta recipe.
Over Rice Pilaf
Our easy Rice Pilaf recipe makes another lovely base for shrimp scampi and all its glorious sauce. But if carbs are an issue, cauliflower rice is just as good.
Over Mashed Potatoes
For the richest pairing possible, spoon your shrimp scampi over a mound of creamy mashed potatoes. Lighten it up with a green vegetable on the side. Asparagus and green beans work well (and taste great dragged through the garlicky butter sauce too).
What Type of Shrimp to Use for Scampi
We like large or extra-large (or even jumbo) shrimp for this dish, since they’re so plump and meaty. Our shrimp buying guide can help you learn about the different kinds and sizes of shrimp, the way they’re caught, and what’s best for your dish.
What Kind of Wine to Use for Scampi
Pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc are both good choices, but even a riesling can work. Stay away from oaky wines and choose a dry white wine that you’ll want to drink with your dish—you only need a little bit for the actual cooking part, after all.
Header image by Chowhound