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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Recipe File: Shrimp Scampi

Traditionally served over linguine, shrimp scampi makes a quick and easy dinner that works equally well eaten in front of the computer or as the main dish of a romantic candlelight dinner. I serve large shrimp (16-20 count) when I have company over, but for my own consumption, I use the less expensive 41-50 count variety. Cooking the shrimp in butter provides most of the flavor but garlic and parsley is essential to the dish. Linguine takes about the same amount of time to cook, which makes it the perfect compliment to shrimp scampi both culinarily and in terms of efficiency.

In the United States, shrimp is sold by "count". This is a rating of the size and weight of the shrimp. The count represents the number of shrimp in a pound for a given size category. For example, 41-50 count shrimp are composed of shrimp that weigh about 1/3 ounce each, while 16-20 count shrimp are an ounce each (or a little less) in weight. The lower the count, the larger the shrimp (and the more expensive).

Bring six quarts of water in a large pot to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, peel one pound of shrimp, leaving tails on. Butterfly the shrimp by cutting the backs of each shrimp. While butterflying I also remove the vein (I think it's actually the alimentary canal) to avoid having gritty shrimp waste in my scampi. Rinse the shrimp and blot dry with paper towels. Once the water is boiling, stir in 1/2 tablespoon table salt and add one pound of dried linguine. (Cooking times for pasta varies by manufacturer. Use the instructions on the box, but be aware that many pasta manufacturers recommend cooking times that are to long for al dente. I suggest subtracting a few minutes from the cooking time and testing the pasta by biting down on it and looking at the cross section. There should still be a tiny speck of uncooked pasta when the noodles are al dente. Drain the pasta immediately; they will finish cooking as they stand.)

Melt four tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil in the pan. Add about 2 teaspoons of minced garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter). Stir over medium-low heat until the garlic is lightly browned.

The shrimp should be added in a single layer on the pan (cook two batches if necessary). The shrimp can be cooked over low or medium heat. Over medium heat, the shrimp will form a slight crust and be golden brown when cooked. When the shrimp color changes and the flesh touching the pan is no longer translucent (about two minutes), flip the shrimps over with a pair of tongs or spatula.

Meanwhile, when the linguine is cooked to the desired level, pour the pasta into a collander to drain. Return the pasta to the pot or into a large bowl. When the second side of the shrimp is fully cooked (another two minutes), throw in one tablespoon chopped parsley and give it a quick stir. Remove from the heat and pour shrimp and butter over the pasta. Toss and serve with fresh grated parmesan, ground black pepper, and a slice of lemon.

Shrimp Scampi
1 lb. shrimpcook until opaqueflip; cook until opaqueadd
4 Tbs. buttermeltbrown
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbs. chopped parsley
Copyright Michael Chu 2004

posted by Michael Chu @ 9/21/2004 06:48:00 PM   38 comments
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At 8:11 PM, Anonymous said...

Awwwww, the pancetta is getting lonely. Pasta and shell fish just LOVE cured pork. I know, I seen them glisten.

Dr. B / Meathenge

At 8:51 PM, Anonymous said...

Why does the shrimp turn red?

At 10:45 PM, Michael Chu said...

re: Shrimp color change

Shrimp (and lobsters, crabs, lagostines, crawfish, etc.) contain a pigment called astaxanthin. The astaxanthin is covered by proteins, so when you introduce enough heat, the proteins unravel and the astaxanthin is released. The astaxanthin provides the reddish orange coloring that we associate with cooked shrimp. Astaxanthin is also the pigmentation that makes salmon flesh pink or orange.

Astaxanthin is produced by some plants and algae and it is the consumption of this plant matter that introduces the pigment into crustaceans and fish. (Commercial farms have also been known to add astaxanthin to feed in order to produce more vibrant color and promote proper growth.)

Hope this helped,

At 10:56 PM, Anonymous said...

what is butterflying?

At 12:01 AM, Chris said...

Sounds delicious - however, why would you leave the tails on? It just makes the diner have to remove the tail before eating the shrimp.

I usually remove the tail unless battering (so you can use the tail as a 'handle').


At 12:13 AM, Ben FrantzDale said...

Anonymous, I the answer appears to be Astaxanthin. (I looked it up, found it wasn't in Wikipedia, and added it. I put two links there.)

At 12:54 AM, Michael Chu said...

re: Butterflying

Butterflying shrimp is simply to provide a shallow cut down the back (without cutting through the shrimp). This will help the shrimp curl more during cooking and the back will open up enabling more shrimp surface area for sauces and seasonings to coat.

re: leaving the tails on

I have no idea why the tails are left on in shrimp scampi. Seems to be a tradition (like serving with linguine). I too prefer if the tails are off because then I can eat the whole meal without thinking about shells or tails or inedible parts.


At 4:33 AM, giulienk said...

IMHO I don't think grated parmisan really go well with scampi. At least in Italy it's a no no no. But YMMV.

At 6:54 AM, Alredhead said...

We aren't in Italy are we? I like the recipe as it is. If you don't, or you would like to change something, why don't you do that when you are making the food for yourself?


At 8:16 AM, A said...

thank you sooo've got me cooking again!

At 10:49 AM, fectin said...

actually, the smaller shrimp are the better kind, and the smallest you can et are best. Ironic, I know, but it's a question of flavor. Big shrimp are food like parsley is food. interesting, edible, but best as a garnish.

At 12:20 PM, graceshu said...

i hunger.

At 2:17 PM, supergood said...

I thought I might make some clarifications and points for your international readers (like myself)!

The shrimp used in this recipe are actually Prawns, this is just another site of the old "Throw another shrimp no the barbie" thing that Australians endure. Not that I am arguing that the Americans are wrong here (I don't need to do I? hehe) just you wont be able to find big shrimps otherwise. Well in my neck of the woods you wouldn't.

Also the name of the dish confuses me too. Because down here we have another shrimp/prawn like creature called Scampi (its halfway in size between a Tiger Prawn and a Crayfish). We don't really get to eat much of in New Zealand, as its exported possibly to Japan and Europe. But I guess thats by the by.

Oh, and about leaving the tails on, I believe it gives you something to hold on to if you are going to eat them by hand. Also they're fine to eat and provide a nice textural contrast in your dish.

At 4:34 PM, Michael Chu said...

re: Prawns vs. shrimp

In different parts of the United States (and the world), the name shrimp has different meanings. In some cookbooks, restaurants, and markets, any large shrimp is called a prawn. As I understand it, this is not technically correct. I will explain how I choose to refer to these crustaceans:
Shrimp - The sea creatures pictured in this article regardless of size.
Prawns - Similar to shrimp but have little pinchers. Also called langoustines. In Italy, I believe these are referred to as scampi (thus the necessity of using large shrimp in this dish). These aren't usually sold at supermarkets (in my area).
Lobster - A really HUGE shrimp with BIG pinchers. :)


At 8:31 PM, Connie said...

Re: tails left on

My understanding is that cooking with the shells on make the shrimp more flavourful. I had a similar dish last night at a Southern Italian restaurant and they had the entire shell on. I would have preferred to have the shell off with slightly less flavour; I was up to my wrists in sauce trying to wrestle the shells off them suckers. Next time I will ask them to peel them in advance!

At 1:13 PM, supergood said...

Totally agree with the above about the shells, which is probably why the shells from shelled tails often get used in the stock for soups - perhaps a starter before the linguine above?

At 12:35 PM, Anonymous said...

Calling a recipe "Shrimp Scampi" is like calling it "Shrimp Shrimp" since (as Michael even points out) "scampi" is an Italian word for shrimp; contrary to popular opinion and thousands of bad American restaurant menus, "scampi" does not imply any particular method of preparation.

Saying the dish is "traditionally served over linguine" is silly because there is no traditional dish named "shrimp scampi". And although I agree that linguine goes well with shrimp and garlic, it is a perfect complement (that's with an E), not "compliment" (with an I).

Nice looking Website but I hate it when amateurs pretend to know cooking and publishing.

At 1:57 PM, Michael Chu said...

Hey, I'm not the one who named the dish. This is what it's called in the United States - I just wanted to share how I cook the equivalent dish.

If there's too much confusion over the title of the dish, I'll change it, but I was under the impression that calling this dish "Shrimp Scampi" would immediately bring forth images of shrimp in butter garlic sauce. Let me know if I am mistaken and what the title of this dish is supposed to be called. (And yes, I did think it was odd for a dish to be called shrimp shrimp, but there are plenty of food names that don't make sense...)


At 6:04 AM, Anonymous said...

I'm not an engineer but I thought this website with its recipe formats/presentation was interesting but people you are killing me with your stupid commentary in the reviews!
What I want to know when I read a recipe review is how does it taste? would you make it again? what might you change or what did you do differently from the stated recipe? How would you rate this on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the best?
Check out other cooking sites(, to see what a thoughtful recipe review looks like.
I think this site has great potential but reviews like what's posted for this recipe will turn a lot of people away.

At 3:29 PM, supergood said...

Well there's no reason to be rude is there? Why don't you ask Michael if he approves of comments like this or not. And while you're at it you could ask if his hits have gone down or not because of these comments.


At 5:43 PM, liz said...

Oh bosh. This is a great site. I didn't take it to be meant as some commercial, "professional" venture, but someone's earnest personal food sharing! (With nifty original format for recipes!) I hate slick commercial stuff anyway.

At 5:45 PM, liz said...

(PS: I meant "bosh" to Anonymous Coward's comment about the site.)

At 10:45 PM, Anonymous said...

oooooohhhh, I am only anonymous, because am incredibly lazy in all other areas but cookery. While I work with many P.eng.'s what I appreciate is the asethetic of the prep., I was drawn to the mechanics and machinations. I agree, it would be nice to say, "oh, that was lovery", or "what a symphony of choices", but, that is not this site. The beauty of this site, is like classic art. Because of the intellect of the interpeter, we know more than when we originally began. Love the work. Would never cook avocados... But would by wooden cutting boards, good knives and good salt because of you. Good work, keep it up....

At 1:31 PM, jm said...

For this Midwesterner, shrimps/garlic/butter/pasta is *exactly* what Shrimp Scampi means.
However I had a friend in college whose father was Italian and we once went out to a place in Little Italy in the Bronx where one of the items on the menu was Shrimp Scampi.
Friend's father was perplexed and asked the waiter, what's this? I think for him scampi was a shrimp-related creature but of a different size, so a dish named Shrimp Scampi was crazy, stupid or meaningless. The unctuous waiter patronizingly explained to him that it was an Italian dish, blah, blah, the father insisted it was nonsense, he'd lived many years in Italy and had never heard of the stuff, and the waiter muttered under his breath as he turned to go, "Va Fa Napoli!" which for some reason means "Go to hell!"

At 8:46 PM, Eric Chin said...

Thanks for having such a great site up. Makes cooking look interesting again for me.

I especially like how you present the recipe in chart form, makes the sequence look so much simpler.

At 2:38 PM, Anonymous said...

any one herr

At 7:54 AM, Anonymous said...

In the UK, scampi is a prawn / shrimp - type creature, deep fried in breadcrumbs (or perhaps batter) and often served with chips! (referred to as "scampi and chips") So, completely different from the "shrimp scampi" mentioned here (all versions). Typical British food - take anything, deep-fry it and serve it with chips! (chips = fat French Fries). Tastes good, though!

At 9:34 AM, Anonymous said...

Re the question about leaving a portion of the shell at the tail: The process of removing the "vein" cannot remove the terminal portion as it dives deep through the body of the shrimp and ends at what is the equivalent of the anus. Yes, Michael is correct that the "vein" is not a vascular structure but is in fact the alimentary canal or gut. All of the shell can be removed, and you can eat the entire shrimp, tail and all, but when you do you will be eating the terminal portion of the gut and the anus. This may or may not offend you.

As to shrimp versus prawn, the distinction is not important in any scientific sense. There are some 300 species of shrimp, but most common is the species Penaeus. As a matter of usage, the term prawn is often applied to larger specimens but does not mean that it is a different critter. Perhaps the term serves best as a justification for higher prices on menus.

Two comments were made about the role of the left-on shell at the tail in improving the flavor of the dish. Whether there is a large contribution to the flavor from this small portion of shell is arguable, but it certainly is possible to deepen the intensity of flavor by making the dish with the addition of a quarter cup or so of quick shrimp stock added to the mixture. Take removed shrimp shells, any lemon rinds, and any parsley stems, put them in a small saucepan, mash them down, add 3/4 cup of water, some salt and (white) pepper, bring it to a boil, reduce it by about half, and add that to the mixture. Do this especially if you like your dish a bit broth-y.

Buy big shrimp if you want to show off, but they get very tough very easily. Use smaller shrimp for better flavor and more tenderness. It means more work shelling, but the result is finer.

Cooked lemon juice loses its edge very quickly. If you use lemon juice in your recipe, and you should, add it at the very last minute, after you have added all the rest to the pasta in the pot. Bright lemon flavor is key to this dish.

Whether you use any Parmesan cheese is a matter of taste. If you use Parmesan, use the good stuff, Parmigiano-Reggiano. Grate it with a microplane grater or a fine wood rasp reserved for kitchen use only. The first time around, add the cheese as a sprinkle on a portion of your plate and see if you like it.

I'm anonymous only because I did not want to set up a blogger account. I am neither an engineer nor a chef, but I cook a lot of shrimp, and these are thoughts from my own personal quest for the ultimate Linguine con Scampi al Limone.

At 9:31 AM, Anonymous said...

when i poured the shrimp on the pasta it wasn't as salty...why was that so.

At 6:49 PM, Michael Chu said...

re: saltiness

The shrimp is less salty when you pour it onto the pasta? I'm not sure what's going on there. Maybe it's because the salt on the shrimp is mixing with lots of linguine, so the saltiness that you taste is less than if you had tasted the shrimp by itself.

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous said...

My family loved this - with the tails on I might add. Both my husband and son love the tails, especially when you remove the tail with the little bit of shrimp still in it and saute them in butter, garlic and a little lemon. Too bad they don't sell the tails!!!!

At 11:21 PM, Anonymous said...

You sautee and eat the tails themselves?? Amazing! I've never actually thought to try this, though I've time and again eaten the shell of sauteed shrimp with the shrimp itself, when too lazy to get dirty and peel. The next time I'm cooking shrimp, I'll remember to try frying the tails. Kind of like a genuine form of "shrimp chip" eh? Incidentally, the heads of shrimp can also be used to make broth, rendering a much stronger flavour than simply using the tails.

And Michael: I've been to your site many a time, but this is my first comment posting. THANK YOU for sharing all of this with us -- you are a true proponent of free information exchange in what is fast becoming the era of intellectual commerce. Thanks for continuing to add new and delicious recipes to your site, in spite of the occasional rude comment by passing ingrates and ignoramuses. The vast majority of us truly appreciate your work.

I'll be back!

- JT

At 1:54 PM, Anonymous said...

This is the recipe I have been looking for, rather it is shrimp shrimp or with or without tails, I will rate it at 5. Yum. Glad I found this website. br

At 1:13 PM, Mishee said...

I think this recipe is great...I also like to add some chardonnay and fresh grated lemon peel to add some zest to the sauce....I think the wine helps bring out the flavor in the shimp as well as the seasonings.

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous said...

I make a variation of this recipe that is quite tasty, although I dont think it can be considered Shrimp Scampi anymore.

I melt butter and fry minced garlic and diced onions, add a pinch of cayenne pepper and hot pepper flakes. I'll then add the shrimp, I prefer to remove the tails and if the shrimp are large I'll cut them in half. when the shrimp are done I'll add heavy cream and grated cheese. serve over linguine. the hot peppers go a long way so be careful.

At 12:07 AM, Anonymous said...

All this fuss about what we Americans decided to name something, goodness! I do think that is one of the most interesting parts of this site is learning what y'all overseas don't have and the different names used for things we have in common. Like digestion biscuits, a homologue to grahm crackers, that sounds kinda scary. I think saying it is traditionally served over liguini is perfectly legit, can't Americans have traditions too for goodness sake, it is how we serve the dish and all. I think that is a cool thing about this country, we take dishes and style from other countries and adapt them to our tastes and make a whole new style, but enough of the flag waving.

As for the site I just discovered it and have become hooked quite quickly. I think that the snobby comments about the site are uncalled for, I have seen nothing claiming this to be a "professional chef site", heck the name itself says exactally what it is and who the intended audience is (the microbiologist daughter of an engineer is welcome though right =)). If one wants to go to a traditional cooking site then by all means go but leave sites like this alone, the internet is big enough for both! This site is more than a cooking site it is a place for people express ideas and such, and that is cool. Great work Michael!


At 2:43 PM, Anonymous said...

Going slightly off topic, but if the last poster was referring to the UK, we have digestIVE biscuits, not digestION biscuits. Maybe it's familiarity, but digestive biscuits sound considerably more palatable and less medical - to a Brit, anyway ;-)

At 11:43 AM, Anonymous said...

I think the site is very good. who cares what you call it as long as it taste good


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