What is Shrimp Scampi anyways?
Did you know that when you make a “Scampi,” it just means adding a lemon herb butter sauce? Normally, when people hear “Shrimp Scampi,” they automatically think of shrimp over pasta. Well, that is not always the case!
Something else that may interest you about Shrimp Scampi is the history behind its name. Scampi are small lobster-like crustaceans. So, “Shrimp Scampi” is actually a somewhat funny, nonsensical name for this dish, but it has stuck throughout history.
A New York Times cooking article talks about its history: “Italian cooks in the United States swapped shrimp for scampi, but kept both names. Thus the dish was born, along with its multitude of variations. ” So, while Shrimp Scampi joins “ATM machine” and “Please RSVP” as an unfortunate redundancy, to me, it’s just so delicious that you’ll have to exclaim twice: once in English, and once in Italian!
No matter how you decide to cook Shrimp Scampi, this dish is incredibly versatile and easily paired with other sides. I always use Naked Shrimp to create my Shrimp Scampi recipe. Personally, I LOVE serving fresh Shrimp Scampi over warm toasted garlic bread, or with jasmine rice pilaf.
The Importance of High Quality, Sustainable Shrimp
The key to a great Shrimp Scampi is using the right, high-quality ingredients. Fresh herbs and garlic make all the difference when crafting your butter sauce, and of course, the shrimp is PARAMOUNT.
I refuse to cook with anything but Naked Shrimp. This is, in my experience, the best shrimp product on the market. It is totally chemical-free with no preservatives, no additives, no antibiotics, no phosphates, and no added water. Just pure, natural shrimp.
Naked Shrimp are 4-Star Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) Certified Sustainable, which means each step of the process is carefully monitored to ensure responsible practices.
WHY does this matter? Well – chemically-treated shrimp have water added to them. So, when you sauté shrimp in the pan, all the water will cook out of them, they will not sear properly, and you will be left with a rubbery, chemical-tasting shrimp.
With Naked Shrimp – you are able to get beautiful caramelization from the natural sugar present in the shrimp, along with a crisp, clean texture.
According to an article from WebMD about shrimp’s health benefits, “unless you live near the coast, shrimp at your local grocery likely aren’t fresh. They’ll be frozen or previously frozen and thawed.” Naked Shrimp are “flash frozen” using state-of-the-art technology in order to lock in the maximum flavor, texture and freshness, until the moment you’re ready to thaw and cook it.
This adds another layer of convenience because you can thaw the night before, or even on a moment’s notice. You can also feel confident that your shrimp has been “frozen in time” from the time it is harvested until the time you are cooking it.
What is Scampi Sauce Made of?
As is often the case with delicious dishes, it’s all about the Scampi sauce! And this pan sauce is one of the most important parts of a perfect Shrimp Scampi, second only to the shrimp itself. Let me give you the low down on the magic that happens in your pan.
Once you finish searing your shrimp, the natural sugars present in those shrimp will have surfaced and caramelized. This not only gives the shrimp a gorgeous golden brown crust, it also leaves deposits of deep flavor in your pan upon which you will build your sauce.
At this point, you should add your freshly minced garlic and shallots to the pan and spread it out, cooking for just about a minute and taking care not to brown or burn. Now, you will add your white wine to “deglaze” the pan of all that fantastic, complex flavor and caramelization.
Add in your red pepper flakes, lemon juice, and lemon zest. DO NOT underestimate the power of the zest! This step rewards an incredible fresh, fruity burst of flavor. From here, you will reduce the wine over high heat until it is almost dry. This cooks off the alcohol and leaves us with the bright, aromatic flavors of the wine.
Turn your heat to low and finish off your pan sauce with some high quality butter and freshly chopped Italian parsley, adding your shrimp back into the pan to make friends with the sauce and swirling to combine.
Making Shrimp Scampi
My Shrimp Scampi recipe is SO straightforward. It’s a dish that every seafood lover should have in their arsenal.
It’s fantastic to enjoy as a weeknight meal, or to share with family and friends at a dinner party. The Naked Shrimp already comes peeled and deveined, which makes prep time even faster. You will only need to remove the tails, because tails do not belong in your scampi.
Cooking up Shrimp Scampi only takes about 25 minutes from start to finish.
Or if you prefer to watch and cook, check out this quick YouTube video showing the Shrimp Scampi recipe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFUwPUnpHG0
- 16 each 26/30 Naked Shrimp. Thaw & pat dry any excess moisture.
- 2 Tbl. Light Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
- 1 Tbl. Fresh Garlic, chopped
- 1 Tbl. Shallots, chopped
- Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
- ¼ Cup Dry White Wine (use what you drink!)
- ½ ea. Lemon zest and juice
- 1 Tbl. Cold butter slices
- ¼ Cup Fresh Chopped Parsley
- In a 10-inch sauté pan, heat the oil over medium high heat.
- Season Naked Shrimp with Salt + Pepper. Add to the pan, shrimp should sizzle when they touch the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan or move shrimp until ready to flip.
- Cook 3-4 minutes until lightly browned.
- Turn shrimp over with tongs & cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Remove shrimp & reserve them warm.
- Add garlic & shallots to the pan and cook until softened, about 1 minute.
- Add red pepper flakes, wine, and lemon.
- Reduce over high heat until almost dry.
- Add butter and “swirl” pan to melt and create a sauce. Do not boil.
- Add parsley and reserved cooked shrimp. Bring to a quick simmer.
- Coat with sauce and serve.
Which White Wine is Best for Cooking Shrimp Scampi?
Since the Shrimp Scampi recipe calls for using a dry white wine, I thought I’d share suggestions for good wine pairings. But you can absolutely just use what you drink, too!
According to the Wine Buying Guide, “To cook seafood, choose a crisp, dry white wine like a Pinot Grigio, Muscadet, or Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot Grigio is the most versatile of these. Expect Sauvignon Blanc to be more acidic and add a lemony flavor to your dish.”
If you’re curious and looking for even more information on the best white wines for cooking with shrimp, here’s an extensive wine pairing guide.
If you prefer a non-alcoholic substitute for white wine when cooking your scampi sauce, you can also use chicken broth.
Shrimp Scampi Additional Pairing Suggestions:
- Serve over warm toasted garlic bread to add a crunch, and soak up the wine butter sauce.
- Toss with freshly-cooked pasta for a more “traditional” scampi dish, as recognized by restaurant goers.
- Serve over (Jasmine) rice pilaf to switch things up.
- Use fresh spinach, asparagus or small cannellini beans for added nutrition and to enjoy a side of vegetables.
- Try it with sundried tomato, and even feta cheese…because why not?! These two ingredients are a delicious & unique addition!
If you’re a fried shrimp fan, you may also like my Beer-Battered Naked Shrimp with Rosemary Lemon Aioli recipe. Or, if you’re looking for a fun shrimp appetizer to serve up, check out my Shrimp taquitos recipe.
What are some of your favorite seafood recipes? Do you have any questions about cooking with seafood? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, and on social media. Tag @NorthCoastSeafoods to get featured.
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About Chef Andrew Wilkinson: Trained at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York Chef Andrew Wilkinson has an instinctive understanding of superior cuisine. In his newest mission; “Real Food for Healthier Kids,” Chef Andrew is spearheading North Coast Seafoods’ commitment to offer all school children the benefits of adding seafood to the weekly menu offering. Wilkinson is constantly looking for innovative ways to utilize lesser-known, sustainable and healthy fish choices for today’s changing diet.
Prior to joining North Coast Seafoods, Wilkinson was Chef/Partner of Skipjack’s Restaurant Group in Boston. Wilkinson made his mark in New York City as the Executive Chef of the Rainbow Room. Wilkinson brings extensive international experience to the kitchen. After graduating from the CIA, he worked at the 3-star Kur Hotel Traube Tonbach in Germany. He returned to the U.S. to be the chef at Aurora in New York City and after three years was recruited to Fukuoka, Japan. He was a U.S. Culinary Olympic Team Sous Chef in 1984 & 1988. The most important things in Chef Andrew’s life, family and cooking, have always intersected.