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Our restaurant-quality Shrimp Scampi cooks up in just minutes! Enjoy this easy recipe as an appetizer or meal.
Get ready for the BEST Shrimp Scampi you’ve ever tasted my friends! There’s a secret ingredient added to this recipe that adds so such incredible flavor – you’ll want to lick your plate clean!
Shrimp Scampi is also one of the easiest recipes to make. Watch our video with all of the steps!
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What is Shrimp Scampi?
In the United States, Shrimp Scampi has become synonymous with an Italian-American dish of large shrimp sauteed in garlic, butter and olive oil as well other ingredients for flavoring. It’s often served over pasta at restaurants.
In other parts of the world, the word “scampi” refers to a specific crustacean – also known as a Dublin Bay Prawn or Norway Lobster. (Source: Wikipedia.) So – if you order scampi on the menu outside of the United States, you likely won’t be served shrimp.
Why you’ll love this delicious recipe
- It’s quick and easy. Shrimp Scampi takes just 15 minutes to prepare!
- The flavors! This is – hands down – one of our favorite ways to eat shrimp and a secret ingredient gives it fantastic flavor.
- It’s versatile. You can make this dish to serve as an appetizer or as an entree with pasta. It’s easy enough to serve any night of the week, but it’s impressive enough that you can serve it for your next dinner party.
About that secret ingredient
Many years ago, my husband Jack and I traveled to Tuscany for our honeymoon. While attending cooking classes at Toscana Saporita, we struck up a friendship with one of the American chefs, Chris Covelli, who helped teach some of the cooking classes. We bonded over our shared love of New England and the Boston Red Sox – plus he’s just an all-around great guy.
Back then, Chris also owned a restaurant called L’uva in Provincetown, Massachusetts on Cape Cod – just about an hour away from where we live. The summer after our honeymoon, we visited Chris’s restaurant for dinner and enjoyed the absolute best shrimp scampi we’ve ever had in our lives. We literally cleaned our plates – sopping up every last little drop of goodness from that shrimp scampi dish!
After we finished, Chris stopped by our table with a knowing look on his face. After telling him that his shrimp scampi was THE best – Chris smiled and simply said the word: pancetta. And that secret ingredient gives this dish a ton of fantastic flavor!
What kind of shrimp do I buy for Shrimp Scampi?
You can buy fresh or frozen shrimp for Shrimp Scampi – but given the short shelf life of fresh shrimp, we typically buy bags of frozen shrimp at our local market so we can be sure of the quality.
You’ll want to use large shrimp (size 16-20). Those numbers you see on on a bag of shrimp refer to the number of shrimp that makes up a pound. So a higher number means that the shrimp are smaller; a lower number means that the shrimp are larger.
We also recommend buying shell-on frozen shrimp – and cook your Shrimp Scampi with the shell still on. The shell preserves the juices which add great flavor, and it also prevents the shrimp from shrinking as you cook it. (You’ll just want to make sure that the shrimp has been de-veined before you cook them).
Having said that – eating a shrimp dish that is served with the shell still-on the shrimp can be messy, because you’ll need peel it before eating. If you’d prefer, you can make this Shrimp Scampi recipe with the shells removed before cooking. You can even remove the tails if you’d like for extra eating convenience.
Key Ingredients for Shrimp Scampi
- Large shrimp – As mentioned above, we buy shell-on, frozen shrimp in the 16-20 size. You can remove the shells and tails before cooking if you’d like.
- Pancetta – That flavorful not-so-secret-anymore ingredient that gives shrimp scampi extra flavor.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Use the best EVOO you can afford. It has the best flavor.
- Butter – We use unsalted butter because the shrimp already has a bit of briny flavor.
- Garlic – Fresh, minced garlic is best and a must-include ingredient in any shrimp scampi dish.
- Red Pepper Flakes – Use just a pinch to add gentle heat to this recipes.
- Lemon – You’ll use both the zest and the juice from a lemon, adding a fresh, bright note of flavor.
- Fresh Parsley – Another fresh flavor you don’t want to leave out.
How do you make Shrimp Scampi?
- Brown the pancetta in olive oil over medium heat. Once cooked, you can discard the pancetta bits or leave them in the pan (we left them in).
- Add butter, garlic, and other seasonings and cook until the garlic starts to brown.
- Increase the heat under the pan, then add the shrimp to cook, turning often to ensure even cooking. Once the shrimp is pink, remove it from the heat.
- Add lemon juice, lemon zest and half of the parsley. Toss to coat the shrimp.
- Sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top of your shrimp scampi for garnish, then serve immediately.
What do I serve with Shrimp Scampi?
You can serve this as an appetizer with Garlic Bread (great for soaking up the sauce) or over your favorite pasta. Or – just eat it as is, right out of the bowl!
This recipe originally appeared on A Family Feast in December 2014. We’ve updated the post and images but the delicious recipe remains the same.
You may enjoy these other Shrimp recipes:
- Sweet and Spicy Shrimp, Pineapple and Bacon Skewers
- Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Savory Root Vegetable Rice Pilaf
- Sweet and Sour Shrimp Stir-Fry
- Spanish-Style Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo)
- Bang Bang Shrimp
1/2 pound spaghetti if serving
1 pound large shell-on shrimp (16-20 per pound)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ounce pancetta, diced fine
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 good pinch red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt
Few grinds black pepper
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped parsley, divided
Start cooking the spaghetti if serving and prepare the rest of the ingredients while it cooks.
Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. Do not peel.
In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat and add pancetta. Cook slowly until slightly browned. You can remove and discard the pancetta after it is cooked or leave it in. We left the pancetta in but your choice.
Add butter, garlic, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook on low heat for two to three minutes or until garlic just starts to brown.
Turn pan to medium high to high and when hot, add shrimp. Toss often and when shrimp is pink and cooked (2-3 minutes), remove pan from heat and add lemon juice, lemon zest and half of the parsley. Toss to coat and return to heat for one scant minute to thicken sauce.
Serve immediately by portioning shrimp out into small plates or bowls and pouring pan sauce over each portion. Top portions with the remaining chopped parsley.
Or if serving with spaghetti, portion spaghetti onto plates or into bowls and serve the shrimp and sauce over each portion.
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