Food You Can Eat: Shrimp Scampi

What is the real meaning of "scampi"? The answer may surprise you!

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An interesting note about shrimp scampi: shrimp and scampi are actually two slightly different things. Scampi is a fellow crustacean but as I understand it all scampi are shrimp but not all shrimp are scampi. In America (I don’t know about The Abroad) the term “scampi” somehow transformed into “in a garlic butter sauce.” 

There are two things you can do for shrimp scampi. You can make buttery breadcrumbs and bake, which is the last thing you want to do on a hot day, or you can do the more summer-friendly thing, which is to make it on a stovetop and serve over pasta, usually linguine. Here’s the summery way.

In a fairly large skillet heat up 2 tbsp. olive oil and 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) of butter. Add about 1 head of garlic’s worth of cloves, minced, and sauté for a minute or a little less. Add 1 1/2 lbs. of shelled shrimp. I take the tails off but you don’t have to (a small piece of shrimp tail shell lived between two of my teeth for days once: Never Again!). Squeeze the shrimp in but don’t overlap or make a pile of them, because you now want to add salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes, 1 pinch each, sauté for a couple of minutes, and turn them over and heat their other sides, 1 or 2 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup of a dry white wine, like a sauvignon blanc, or 1/2 cup chicken broth. Simmer some more until the sauce reduces by about 1/2. This goes quickly, another couple of minutes or so. Finally, stir in some lemon juice.

In the meantime you’ve boiled 12 oz to 1 lb. linguine. I normally don’t use a full 16-oz. box because there’s only two of us (no shellfish for the hound!) and I like a higher shrimp : linguine content. I prefer the linguine to be beyond al dente for this.

I love cooking with shrimp because look how quickly this went! If you are manic obsessive about precise ways to load a dishwasher (one of us is and it’s not me) you will spend more time on cleanup than you did cooking.



  1. It makes me crazy when I order a shrimp pasta dish at a restaurant and they serve the shrimp with the tails on.  If I wanted to work for my food I would have ordered a whole lobster.

    Regarding order of operations, do you have trouble with the shrimp getting rubbery if they’re cooking in the sauce until the sauce reduces?  Or are you cooking the first side for two minutes, then turning over and adding the remaining liquid and cooking for the final two minutes for the shrimp and the sauce at the same time?

    • I usually flip them then add the wine. (I only once made this with chicken broth and didn’t really notice a difference in flavor, to be honest.)

      I might be accustomed to rubbery shrimp. I’ll have to try to remember your way the next time, add shrimp, add liquid, flip shrimp.  

    • @butcherbakertoiletrymaker The shells add a lot of flavor. But it’s odd to only leave on the tails, and lose the flavor of the rest. So I take the whole shell off, use it to make stock. And add it in to shrimp dishes to get all the flavor without the having to mess with the tails. 

  2. This sounds delicious! I haven’t had shrimp scampi in… probably decades, at this point. The last time I can remember having it was with my grandparents, and my grandpa was still alive, so that’s nearly 30 years ago (!!!). 
    I do have a bag of shrimp in the freezer… and fresh garlic… hmmm…

  3. I don’t eat seafood, but a summery pasta with garlicky, white wine-based sauce does it for me every time. 
    A word about the distinction between scampi and shrimp: scampi tend to refer to langoustines (aka, Norway lobster, Dublin Bay Prawn), a long crustacean (I’ve heard them referred to as skinny lobsters). 
    I’ve always been confused about shrimp v. prawns, because I thought it was a difference between American and European/ROW terminology (as in, we all knew the Australian tourism ads were truly supposed to say “Let’s put another prawn on the barbie!”). Same with Americans not using the name sultana and just calling all dried grapes raisins. But they’re actually different species from different phylogenetic sub-orders, are different colours and body shapes, and primarily live in different types of water. 

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