Does the world really need another Shrimp Scampi recipe? It’s a fair question. It’s so easy, right? Just throw some shrimp in a skillet with garlic, butter, lemon and wine and that’s it. Surely the internet already has thousands of scampi recipes, and the likelihood of landing on the best one randomly after a Google search are slim to none.
But, dear reader, we really like you (and we care about your dinner) and therefore we have to try. Damnit, we have to try! Because the devil is in the details, and when it comes to Shrimp Scampi, those details make a huge difference. First and foremost is figuring out what shrimp to buy (see our new guide for buying and prepping shrimp).
What is Shrimp Scampi?
Scampi, the creatures, are in fact small, lobster-like crustaceans with pale pink shells (also called langoustines). They are very difficult to find here, and almost all dishes called “scampi” in the U.S. use shrimp. In the U.K., ordering Shrimp Scampi will likely get you a plate of crispy, breadcrumb coated shrimp. (Or, if you’re in a pub, a packet of these.) Delicious, but that’s not what we’re making here. We’re making a version of the classic Italian-American dish, which is shrimp cooked in garlic, white wine and either olive oil or butter, often served with pasta.
Once your shrimp are peeled and de-veined, it’s time to brine them. By brining, all we mean is tossing them with a little kosher salt (1 teaspoon per pound of shrimp) and baking soda (1/4 teaspoon per pound of shrimp). The salt seasons the shrimp all the way through, and helps them stay moist and juicy during cooking (don’t use table salt for this; it will taste way too salty). Alkaline baking soda slightly alters the pH of the shrimp, giving them a firm, almost crisp texture. All you need to do is dry the shrimp on paper towels, add them to a bowl and toss them with the salt and baking soda. Then let them sit in the refrigerator for anywhere from 15 minutes to about an hour (a little longer won’t have any adverse effects).
Many Shrimp Scampi recipes just call for garlic, but we like the sweetness that comes from sautéed shallots (you could substitute a small onion or even some leeks). The dish cooks quickly, so get everything ready before you get cooking. If you’re mixing the scampi with pasta, make sure the water is boiling. It should take you about the same amount of time to prepare the dish as it does to cook the pasta (about 8 to 12 minutes, give or take).
NOTE: This post is not sponsored but Field Company were kind enough to send us one of their cast iron skillets and we absolutely love it. It’s got a beautiful, smooth finish which makes it practically non-stick. And it’s lighter than many other iron skillets, making it easier to move around in and out of the oven. And it’s so gorgeous!
Let’s Get Cooking
Set a large (8 to 10-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and both tablespoons of olive oil. Swirl the pan to combine them. Once the butter is melted and foaming, add the shrimp in an even layer. Cook until the bottom side turns pink and the shrimp start to curl, about 2 minutes depending on how big the shrimp are. Turn them over and cook the other side until the shrimp are pink on the other side and no longer translucent in the middle, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Use a slotted spoon to move the shrimp to a plate, leaving the fat in the pan, and set the plate aside.
If the pan looks dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. If they begin to brown, turn the heat down a little. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic softens and turns fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the wine (either a dry white wine or a dry vermouth works well here) and bring it to a boil. Simmer for 1 minute to cook the alcohol out, then add the rest of the butter and stir and swirl the pan until the butter melts. The sauce should look nice and emulsified (thick and glossy). Stir in the lemon zest, the lemon juice and the parsley. Return the shrimp to the pan and toss until shrimp are hot and coated in sauce.
If serving with pasta, toss the pasta with the shrimp and sauce right in the pan. Or serve with warm, crusty bread, for soaking up the sauce.
The Most Delicious Garlic-Butter Shrimp Scampi
- 1 – 1 1/2 pounds extra-large U 26/30 shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 3 medium shallots finely diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 5 large cloves garlic minced
- Pinch red pepper flakes optional
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest from 1 large lemon
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 large lemon
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
- Dry the shrimp and add them to a medium bowl; toss well with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Return to the refrigerator and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.
- In a large skillet set over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter and the olive oil. Add the shrimp and arrange into an even layer. Cook until barely pink on bottom side, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook until shrimp are pink on the other side and no longer translucent in the middle, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove the shrimp to a plate and set aside.
- If the pan looks dry, add another tablespoon olive oil. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until soft and fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil. Let the simmer for 1 minute; add the rest of the butter and swirl and stir the pan until the butter melts. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice and parsley. Return the shrimp to the pan and toss until shrimp are hot and coated in sauce.
- Serve hot, over pasta or with crusty bread for soaking up the sauce.