Creamy Garlic Shrimp Pasta – Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Not only is this creamy garlic shrimp pasta incredibly delicious with all that garlic butter parmesan flavor, but it’s so quick and easy to make!

Easy and quick enough for a weeknight dinner, this creamy shrimp pasta is restaurant-grade too.

Take a look at the recipe for a trick you can use to brighten up a normally rich and heavy dish with cream!

Prawns with creamy pasta on a white plate.

What kind of shrimp to use

The truth is, most of us deal with frozen shrimp — not freshly caught. Even the shrimp at most grocery store meat counters are shrimp that have been frozen and thawed.

I like to use large shrimp for this recipe. The package is labeled 21 to 30 shrimp per pound (or thereabouts). But really any shrimp size can be used.

Season shrimp with smoked paprika, salt and pepper.

Smoked paprika powder is KEY to delicious layers of flavor in this recipe. If you don’t have smoked paprika you can use regular paprika, but it’s worth getting some smoked paprika, I promise.

Raw shrimp in peppers tossed in glass bowl.

Cook the shrimp in a single layer in a skillet until nicely pink and cooked through.

It will not take long! Shrimp cook very quickly and you don’t want them to overcook.

You should probably do this in two batches so the pan doesn’t get too crowded.

Cooked shrimp in paprika and garlic in the pan.

Prepare the creamy garlic butter sauce

The first step in the creamy sauce is to sizzle the butter and garlic together until fragrant. Yummy.

Next you follow your heart and decide how you want to make the sauce creamy.

Here are your options:

  1. Use whipped cream*. It’s thick and luxurious and rich and never grainy.
  2. Use milk + a little cornstarch. It’s light (both in texture and calories) and creamy and simple and smooth.

I made this recipe with both options, and honestly, each variation is really, really delicious. The heavy cream version makes a slightly silkier sauce, but the milk + cornstarch version is also wonderful and is usually the way I make it.

*Depending on what brand of whipped cream you have on hand, You can always whisk the heavy cream with cornstarch for a thicker sauce. I find that different brands of cream vary quite a bit in thickness. Cream labeled 38-40% cream is very thick (this is generally the kind I buy from Costco).

Pouring milk into pan with peppers and butter.

Simmer and toss

Simmer the sauce over low heat for just a few minutes, until slightly thickened. Then add the Parmesan and stir until the cheese is melted.

Freshly grated Parmesan is best here — it melts a lot better than pre-grated Parmesan cheese.

Use tongs to toss pasta in cream sauce.

Important note about pasta

Helpful timing tip: Boil the water for the pasta at the very beginning, then work on the shrimp and sauce. Pause briefly to add the pasta. While the pasta is cooking you can complete the other components.

The most important thing to remember about this recipe is that you need to scoop and reserve about a cup of pasta water before draining the pasta!

Every time I’ve made this recipe, I’ve ended up using a good portion of the reserved pasta water to fluff up the sauce. The starchy pasta water enhances the creaminess of the sauce and helps keep the pasta from getting soggy and sticky.

Linguine pasta with cream sauce, cooked shrimp and fresh parsley.

This pasta benefits greatly from being served immediately. Since this dish is light in sauce anyway, the longer it sits, the less creamy it gets.

You can definitely increase the sauce ingredients for a juicier pasta, but I find the amount of sauce in the recipe to be a perfect complement to the pasta and shrimp without being overwhelming.

Interestingly, I think the leftovers for a light sauce pasta are fabulous, which isn’t always the case with leftover pasta.

Slightly reheated (or yes, even eaten cold), the leftovers are more reminiscent of pasta salad than a decadent pasta dish — and it just works great for me. As in: Hello, I’m Mel the leftovers collector, it’s really nice to meet you.

Fork in creamy linguine with shrimp.

A year ago: Easy cheesy breadsticks
Two years ago: Plain yoghurt flatbread
Three years ago: White chocolate brownies with a lemon bar
Four years ago: Simple Chocolate Banana Bars
Five years ago: Extra Juicy Brownies {One Bowl!}
six years ago: The best white sandwich bread
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Eight years ago: Fudgy Coconut Oil Brownie Bites
nine years ago: Incredible Chocolate Pudding {Dairy, Egg & Gluten Free}
Ten years ago: Brownies with chocolate icing

Boiled shrimp on creamy linguine on white plate.

Creamy garlic shrimp pasta

Noodles + Prawns:

  • 1 to 2 Pound peeled, deveined shrimp (remove tails if needed) – see note
  • teaspoon smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
  • salt and pepper
  • 12 ounces Linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 3 to 4 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • cups Milk (not skimmed) or cream (see note!)
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 Cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • Freshly grated parmesan to serve
  • Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp together with the smoked paprika and a small pinch of salt and pepper.

  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook al dente according to package directions. Before draining, scoop out 1-2 cups of pasta water and set aside for later. Drain noodles.

  • While the pasta is cooking Heat 1 tablespoon butter + 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch skillet (or deep skillet) over medium-high heat until hot and crispy. Add half the shrimp in a single layer and cook for 30-45 seconds; Flip the shrimp and cook until the shrimp are pink and cooked through (it won’t take long!).

  • Using tongs, transfer the shrimp to a plate, leaving as much butter/liquid in the pan as possible. Repeat with the remaining shrimp – add to the plate with the other shrimp after cooking.

  • Place the pan back on medium-high and melt the 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently (don’t let it burn!) until fragrant, about 30-45 seconds.

  • If using milk, whisk together with the cornstarch (see note below). Pour the milk mixture (or heavy cream if using) into the pan and whisk to combine, allow the sauce to bubble and thicken slightly, 1-2 minutes.

  • Add salt, pepper and parmesan. Stir over medium heat until cheese is melted.

  • Add the cooked pasta, lifting and tossing with tongs to thoroughly coat the pasta in the sauce. Add spoonfuls of the reserved pasta water to fluff the sauce and pasta (just keep an eye out – you probably won’t need to add all the reserved water).

  • Add the shrimp and mix with the pasta. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed! Sprinkle with fresh parsley.

  • Serve immediately (for maximum creaminess)! Serve with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Shrimp: Any size shrimp can be used; I prefer to use larger shrimp – the package is labeled “21 to 30 shrimp per pound” – or thereabouts. If using frozen shrimp, thaw before using. I prefer to use 2 pounds of shrimp for this recipe so there’s a good amount of shrimp per serving, but you can limit yourself to 1 pound.
cornstarch: I only use the cornstarch when using milk in the recipe. If you’re using heavy cream, the cornstarch isn’t necessary unless you want a thicker sauce.
Sauce: The sauce ingredients can be increased slightly if you want a saucy pasta.
Parmesan cheese: shredded Parmesan cheese doesn’t melt as well in the sauce and can give the sauce a grainy/lumpy texture.
Nutritional information: The nutritional information for this recipe was calculated using skim milk (no cream). Please also remember that the nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only, not a guarantee.

Portion: 1 portion, Calories: 371kcal, Carbohydrates: 41G, Protein: 22G, Fat: 13G, Saturated Fatty Acids: 6G, Cholesterol: 107mg, Sodium: 659mg, Fiber: 2G, Sugar: 4G

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Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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