Shrimp Pesto Pasta

Shrimp pesto pasta is an impressively fast and easy dinner recipe! Cover the noodles in glistening green basil pesto for a meal that pleases everyone.

Shrimp pesto pasta

Here’s a fast and easy dinner recipe that’s always a hit in our house: shrimp pesto pasta! Sure, we eat mostly plant based around here. But when we spring for seafood, this is a top choice. Coat long noodles in silky basil pesto, then add juicy, succulent shrimp. Turns out, the garlicky pesto is the perfect pair for the savory pop of shrimp. Our 3 year old couldn’t get enough of this: which means it’s a keeper. It works just as well for dinner party as a weeknight meal. Here’s what you need to know!

Ingredients for shrimp pesto pasta

The great thing about this shrimp pesto pasta is that it only requires a handful of ingredients: even thought it looks impressive! As with any simple recipe: the better quality the ingredients, the better it tastes. Here are a few notes on what you’ll need:

  • Large shrimp: You can use tail on or off: tail on looks prettier, but it’s messier when you’re eating it. Fresh or frozen works (see the section below). Wild caught shrimp is preferred as its the most sustainable option.
  • Basil pesto: Homemade is preferred, if you have fresh basil! If not, use best quality purchased pesto. See below for more about making pesto!
  • Pasta: You can use any type of pasta noodle: long or short! Our favorite is bucatini, which is like a hollow spaghetti. But you can use spaghetti, linguine, or even short cut like penne.
  • Olive oil
  • Spices: Smoked paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder add big flavor to the shrimp. Substitute standard paprika if you don’t have smoked, but we recommend smoked paprika.
Shrimp pesto pasta

Homemade pesto gives the best flavor

Homemade pesto gives the absolute best flavor to pesto pasta! If you have access to fresh basil, you’ll want to give this a go. The flavor is much fresher and more elevated than what you can find in the store. But we get it: fresh basil isn’t always available! In that case, go with your favorite purchased brand. Here are a few things to know about homemade pesto:

  • Traditional pesto uses pine nuts. They’re a little expensive, but worth the splurge. Try our Basil Pesto. Or try…
  • Cashews or walnuts are cheaper and just as good! It’s a nice way to economize and tastes fantastic. Try our Cashew Pesto or Walnut Pesto.
  • Need a dairy free pesto? Pesto has Parmesan cheese. Try this Vegan Pesto for a dairy-free version.

The secret to saucy shrimp pesto pasta

Ever combined pasta and pesto and it made a gummy, dry mess? Yes, it’s a thing. Because pesto has nuts and cheese, it can stick to the pasta instead of coating it. Don’t worry, there’s a trick for that! Here’s what to do:

  • Add pasta water! This is a common Italian technique for cooking pasta. Starchy pasta water makes incredible loose, beautiful sauces. Add this with the pesto and it turns into a slick sauce that perfectly coats the noodles.
  • Toss the noodles and pesto in a bowl. Toss the noodles in the hot pasta pot, and it can make the basil to turn brown, or the pesto nay stick to the bottom of the pot. Instead, toss the noodles and pesto together in a bowl: it works much better! (We picked up that method here.)
Shrimp pesto pasta

Make sure to thaw frozen shrimp in advance

You can use either fresh or frozen shrimp with this shrimp pesto pasta. Turns out, frozen shrimp can be even fresher than if you buy fresh at the grocery store! If it’s flash frozen right away, it can be extremely fresh. We like using frozen because it’s easy to stock in our freezer and use on a moments notice.

The only thing to remember with frozen shrimp? Make sure to thaw it in advance! Here’s what to do:

  • Day before: If you think ahead, simply place the frozen shrimp in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Day of: Place the shrimp in a large bowl of very cold water for 15 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes to break up clumps that freeze together. The shrimp should defrost in about 15 to 20 minutes.
Shrimp pesto pasta

Make it a meal!

Want to make this shrimp pesto pasta into a meal? If we’re serving it on a weeknight, we usually add a simple salad or raw veggies. If you’re making it for a dinner party, you can go all out! Here are a few ideas on how to serve it:

This shrimp pesto pasta recipe is…

Pescatarian. For dairy-free, use Vegan Pesto. For gluten-free, try gluten free or legume-based pasta.

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Shrimp pesto pasta

Shrimp Pesto Pasta


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x

Description

Shrimp pesto pasta is an impressively fast and easy dinner recipe! Cover the noodles in glistening green basil pesto for a meal that pleases everyone.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces long pasta noodles, like spaghetti, bucatini or linguine
  • 1 pound large shrimp, deveined (tail on or off)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon each smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and kosher salt
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup basil pesto*
  • 1/2 cup pasta water, plus more as needed
  • Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. If frozen, thaw the shrimp.
  2. Cook the pasta: Start a pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is just al dente. Start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside; usually around 7 to 8 minutes. Just before draining, reserve 1 cup pasta water! Then drain the pasta.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the shrimp: Pat the shrimp dry. In a medium bowl, mix the shrimp with spices. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Cook the shrimp for 1 to 2 minutes per side until opaque and cooked through, turning them with tongs. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Serve: Place the pasta in a bowl (not the pasta pot). Stir together the pasta, pesto, and 1/2 cup pasta water, tossing with tongs until the pesto is well distributed and the pasta water forms a creamy sauce. Add more pasta water if desired. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and taste. If the flavor doesn’t pop, add a few more pinches until it does. Top with the cooked shrimp and serve immediately. (Store any leftovers refrigerated: note that pesto can get gummy when reheated, so it’s best to eat leftovers cold or room temp.)

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian inspired

Keywords: Shrimp pesto pasta

More fast and easy dinner recipes

Quick weeknight meals are where it’s at for us! Here are a few more fast and easy dinner recipes to try:

  • Epic Fish Tacos Bake the fish with a dry rub of spices, then top it with tangy slaw and creamy sauce.
  • Creamy Shrimp Pasta Easy to make with the best big flavors: garlic, lemon, and Parmesan. A home run dinner idea!
  • Crispy Avocado Tacos Destined to be your new favorite dinner! With crunchy breading, they’ve got the vibe of a fish taco but are totally plant based.
  • Pan Fried Cod The best white fish you’ll have! Flavored simply with spices and olive oil, it’s healthy, stunning and irresistible all at once.
  • Simple White Sauce Pasta An amazing basic cream sauce that everyone will love! Eat it it straight up or customize with more veggies or protein.
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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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