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Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta

This lemon garlic shrimp pasta is out of this world.  The lemon shines through, the capers and garlic give it extra oomph and the butter makes it rich and silky. Seriously good!

The trick to this dish is timing. Once you’ve made this delicious meal once, making it again (and again) becomes a snap.

lemon garlic shrimp pasta in serving bowl f

My sister Mindy begs me to make this dish every time I have a family dinner. And I’ve served it many times to friends at a dinner party with big raves.

By the way, you can make the roasted shrimp, à la Ina Garten, on its own as shrimp cocktail appetizer or added to any other dish for that matter.

Bottom line: Lemon garlic shrimp pasta boasts delicious bright flavors, it’s quick and looks beautiful. You won’t be disappointed. Be sure to check out the timing tips, shortcut, variations and shrimp FAQ.

Tips on Timing

  • Have all the ingredients prepped ahead of time so that everything is on hand to pull together in the last 8-10 minutes.
  • The simple steps in order
    1. Prep the ingredients
    2. Put the pasta in to boil.
    3. Pop the shrimp into the oven
    4. Make the sauce while the pasta cooks, then turn off the heat
    5. Drain the pasta and toss everything together.

Tailor To Your Taste

  • Substitutes and adjustments
    • Substitute the cooked shrimp with cooked chicken, cut into small pieces.
    • Adjust the amount of garlic, lemon and capers to your liking.
  • Vegetarian version
    • Leave out the shrimp and add roasted or sautéed vegetables
  • Gluten free version – use gluten free pasta or rice noodles.
  • Cooking method for shrimp:
    • You can sauté the shrimp instead of roasting them, but I much prefer the roasting method. It’s more hands-off, you avoid the fry smell and the shrimp always come out perfectly plump and juicy in 6-7 minutes.

Steps

lemon, lemon zest, chopped parsley, garlic cloves
Prep the sauce ingredients: zest and juice lemon, mince fresh garlic and chop the parsley.
cooked and drained pasta in pot
Boil pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta (or softer if you prefer). Drain.
roasted shrimp in pan
Roast the shrimp just until done. Don’t overcook. Cooking time will depend on size of shrimp. See FAQ for how to tell when shrimp is cooked.
lemon garlic shrimp pasta in serving bowl
Make the butter lemon garlic caper sauce. Add pasta and shrimp (and tomatoes and fresh baby spinach if using) with a little reserved pasta water to make a smooth consistency. Toss all together with fresh parsley and serve.
close up of lemon garlic shrimp pasta in bowl

FAQ on shrimp

What is the best size shrimp to buy?

For this shrimp pasta recipe, medium, large or jumbo shrimp will work. Check the label on the package. The numbers tell you the size. For example jumbo16-20 means there are 16-20 shrimp per pound (450 grams). Large shrimp will show 25-30 per pound/450 grams. If you want juicy shrimp, do not overcook them. Larger shrimp will take longer.

Are fresh or frozen shrimp better?

It’s safest to buy frozen shrimp as they are frozen very soon after they are fished. Shrimp that are sold as ‘fresh’ are often just defrosted and it’s difficult to know how long they have been sitting there.

What is the best way to defrost shrimp?

Put them in a colander and run cold water over them until defrosted. This is the quickest way – only a few minutes. Instead, you can put them into a bowl of cold water to defrost. This will take a little longer. In both cases, dry them well with paper towels once defrosted.

How can you tell when shrimp is cooked?

When the end of the thicker part of the shrimp (opposite the tail) turns opaque, the shrimp is done. The inside should just lose its translucence, but not be totally white. The outside will turn bright pink unless they are white pacific shrimp. Don’t overcook the shrimp or they will turn rubbery!

Shortcuts

  • Buy frozen shrimp already peeled and deveined. More expensive, but a great time saver.
  • Instead of fresh garlic, use minced garlic from a jar or frozen cubes (great!). But fresh is best for this pasta dish!
  • If adding fresh baby spinach, buy it pre-washed.

What to serve with garlic butter lemon shrimp pasta

Try a simple soup like butternut squash soup or a variation, Thai-inspired butternut squash soup. I also like to serve it with a green salad or a citrus salad with greens. The perfect complement.

Make ahead and store

  • Prep ahead: This pasta recipe is best served fresh. You can, however, do all the prep beforehand, just leaving the final assembly to just before serving. For example, you can make the sauce, chop parsley, zest lemon and roast the shrimp ahead. I like to boil the pasta closer to serving time.
  • To store leftovers: Place leftovers in an airtight container and place it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat in the microwave for a minute. Careful – shrimp are easy to overcook in the microwave.

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4.92 from 12 votes

Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta

This lemon garlic shrimp pasta is out of this world.  The lemon shines through, the capers and garlic give it extra oomph and the butter makes it rich and silky. Seriously good!
Prep Time18 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time28 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 5
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, Note 1 defrosted, Note 2
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon each, salt and black pepper
  • 3/4 pound spaghettinni or angel hair pasta (375 g/12 ounces)

Sauce

  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1 large lemon (for lemon juice and lemon zest)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated (frozen cubes ok too – 3 teaspoons)
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400F/204C.
    Have all ingredients ready to go. 
  • ROAST SHRIMP: Pat thawed raw shrimp dry with paper towels and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay them in a single layer on a foil-lined pan sprayed with oil. Roast 5-8 minutes (depending on size of shrimp) just until pink and barely no longer translucent. Note 3
  • COOK PASTA: Boil water in a large pot of salted water, add pasta and cook until al dente (or softer if you prefer). Drain pasta, reserving one cup/236 ml of the pasta liquid for the sauce.
  • MAKE LEMON GARLIC SAUCE: While pasta is boiling, heat butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add all the other sauce ingredients except parsley (including fresh spinach and cherry tomatoes if using). Mix well for 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat.
  • ASSEMBLE: Add cooked pasta to lemon garlic butter sauce and toss together. Add less than 1/2 cup/118 ml of reserved pasta water to create a smooth consistency (add more if needed). Add cooked shrimp with juice in pan. Sprinkle on parsley. Toss together, adjust seasonings if needed (add 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes if you want some heat) and serve immediately. Garnish with lemon slices if you like.

Notes

  1. Size of shrimp and how to peel and devein: For this recipe, medium, large or jumbo shrimp will work. Check the label on the package. The numbers tell you the size. For example jumbo is 16-20 which means there are 16-20 shrimp per pound (450 grams). You can buy shrimp already peeled and deveined but they are more expensive. Here’s a video on how to peel and devein shrimp on your own. 
  2. How to defrost shrimp: Put them in a colander and run cold water over them until defrosted. This is the quickest way – only a few minutes. Instead, you can put them into a bowl of cold water to defrost. This will take a little longer. In both cases, dry them well with paper towels once defrosted.
  3. How to tell when shrimp are cooked: When the end of the thicker part of the shrimp (opposite the tail) turns opaque, the shrimp is done. The inside should just lose its translucence, but not be totally white. The outside will turn bright pink unless they are white pacific shrimp. Don’t overcook the shrimp or they will turn rubbery!
  4. Make ahead and store:
    • Prep ahead: This pasta recipe is best served fresh. You can, however, do all the prep beforehand, just leaving the final assembly to just before serving. For example, you can make the sauce, chop parsley, zest lemon and roast the shrimp ahead. I like to boil the pasta closer to serving time.
    • To store leftovers: Place leftovers in an airtight container and place it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat in the microwave for a minute. Careful – shrimp are easy to overcook in the microwave.
 
Nutrition values are estimates. 

Nutrition

Calories: 617kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 48g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 481mg | Sodium: 1999mg | Potassium: 631mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 3327IU | Vitamin C: 48mg | Calcium: 328mg | Iron: 6mg
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

This Lemon Pasta with Shrimp recipe was originally published on Two Kooks in The Kitchen in April 2016.

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4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This time I roasted the shrimp (amazing!) and then added some white wine to the sauce and a few drops of Tabasco at the end…. Delicious!!!! Amazing and simple.

  2. Delicious and easy. The instructions were perfect. Sautéed the shrimp in garlic butter instead of roasting it and added a splash of white wine to the and a dash of hot chilli peppers once the shrimp started to turn pink. It was a huge hit !! Thanks, 2 Kooks !!