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Shrimp Alfredo has tender, perfectly-cooked shrimp and pasta – all tossed in a light and creamy Alfredo sauce.
Shrimp Alfredo is a dish that we’ve ordered many, many times when we go out to dinner. Some versions were better than others – and what we’ve learned from our extensive taste-testing is that it’s very easy for the delicious shrimp flavor to get lost in a heavy alfredo sauce.
Keeping that in mind, we set out to make a home-cooked version of this recipe that rivals the best we’ve eaten at our favorite restaurants!
Shrimp Alfredo should not be a heavy and dense dish. Instead, you want a light and creamy sauce that coats the pasta, yet still allows the delicious, sweet shrimp flavor to really shine through.
Key ingredients and Substitutions
- Shrimp – Buy medium-sized (26-30) raw, shell-on shrimp. You’ll peel the shrimp and remove the tail before cooking for easy eating. Never buy already-cooked shrimp for this dish.
- Fresh Dairy – You’ll need unsalted butter, heavy cream, and some freshly grated, aged Parmesan cheese. (Don’t use the jarred Parmesan cheese!)
- Fettuccine – Dry fettucine is totally fine for this dish and it’s what we used in today’s recipe. But if you really want to elevate this dish, splurge on fresh fettuccine. (The pasta cooking time will be much less for fresh pasta.)
- Seasonings – Fresh garlic, salt, pepper, nutmeg and Italian flat-leaf parsley are all you’ll need to finish this dish.
- Pot to cook pasta
- Wide skillet to cook shrimp and prepare the Alfredo sauce
Chef’s Tip –
Cook the shrimp in batches over medium high heat in a wide, heavy skillet. The shrimp will be cooked in less than two minutes so do not overcook.
How do I make Shrimp Alfredo?
- Sauté shrimp in butter for a scant minute or two. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
- Make the sauce in the same skillet. Sauté garlic then add half of the cream. Simmer and reduce the cream by a third.
- Cook the fettuccine while the cream reduces until just shy of al dente. Save a cup of pasta water, then drain the fettuccine.
- Pour the rest of the cream into the skillet along with seasonings and simmer again for a short time to meld flavors and thicken.
- Add the cooked fettuccine to the sauce, along with a quarter cup of the pasta water, and the Parmesan cheese. Cook until the sauce thickens a bit and the fettuccine is tender.
- Add in the shrimp to the skillet and toss with the pasta, heating to warm through. Add more pasta water or cream (as needed) to thin the sauce if it thickens too much.
- Serve with more fresh Parmesan over each portion.
Chef’s Tip –
Avoid using flour to thicken your Alfredo sauce. The cream in the sauce will reduce as it simmers, and the pasta will absorb some liquid so flour is not needed or welcome.
Frequently asked Questions
Can I make Shrimp Alfredo ahead of time? For best results, this entire dish should be made and served right away. Neither cooked shrimp, nor cream sauces reheat very well.
How do I store the leftovers? Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
How to I reheat leftover Shrimp Alfredo? Use extra pasta water or cream to reheat the leftovers in a skillet. (Do not use the microwave – it’s too easy to overheat, and the sauce will break and become oily.)
Can I use light cream or milk instead of heavy cream to make this lower in fat and calories? You can…but the finished dish won’t be the same creamy consistency.
I can’t have dairy. What non-dairy creams can I use instead? We’d like to suggest that you search online for a vegan alfredo sauce recipe as an alternative. We haven’t tested this recipe with non-dairy cream substitutes ourselves.
What can I serve with Shrimp Alfredo?
- Garlic Bread
- Mixed Greens tossed with White Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Mario Batali’s Green Beans (Fagiolini in Padella)
- Affogato (for dessert)
You might enjoy these other Pasta recipes:
- Linguine with White Clam Sauce
- Fettuccine in Cream, Tomato & Basil Sauce
- Linguini with Clam Sauce – Basque-Style
- Spaghetti Pie
- Spaghetti all’Amatriciana
2 pounds raw shell-on shrimp (choose 26-30) (after cooking the yield will be 1 1/2 pounds)
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
2 cups heavy cream, divided
12 ounces dry fettuccine or 16 ounces fresh
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Few grinds fresh nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for serving
Peel all of the shells including tails from the shrimp and pat the shrimp dry with a few paper towels.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
While the water comes to a boil, place a large heavy skillet over medium high and add two tablespoons of butter and once melted, start cooking the shrimp in three batches, making sure they do not touch each other while cooking. Cook one minute, turn and cook for 30 seconds more then remove with tongs or a slotted spoon to a plate or platter. If they get a little browned while cooking, great, if not, no worries.
Repeat for the other two batches, adding more butter as needed. Remove each shrimp as they cook and lay flat to stop the cooking.
Reduce heat to medium and add any remaining butter, then add the garlic and cook one minute.
Add half the cream, let it come to a fast simmer, then reduce to low and let it bubble away while you cook the fettuccine. This cream should reduce by a third, about 10-15 minutes.
At this point, the water should be boiling. Add a teaspoon of kosher salt to the water and add the fettucine and cook just short of fully cooked. If using fresh fettuccine, this process should be very quick.
Save one cup of the pasta water and drain the rest into a colander.
While the pasta drains, add the remaining cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg and parsley to the pan with the reduced cream and cook over medium heat for five minutes.
Add the drained fettuccine and a quarter cup of the pasta water, stir and add the grated Parmesan cheese and cook just long enough for the fettuccine to get tender.
Add the cooked shrimp along with any liquid in the dish and stir to combine.
Add more pasta water and/or cream or milk if the mixture needs to be thinned a bit and heat to serving temperature.
Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.
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Feel free to add more Parmesan cheese per your tastes. More cheese will thicken the sauce while adding flavor so be careful not to add too much.