Juicy shrimp in a zesty lemon pepper butter sauce, all stirred through pasta. This Lemon Pepper Shrimp Pasta is AMAZING!!
This Lemon Pepper Shrimp Pasta is quick enough for a midweek dinner but fancy enough to serve when you have company.
Everyone loves pasta, and this restaurant-quality shrimp pasta is always a winner. With garlic, lemon, and black pepper, this recipe is packed with flavor.
How to make an easy lemon pepper sauce
The sauce for this pasta couldn’t be simpler! It is a mixture of stock, wine, and butter along with plenty of lemon, black pepper, and garlic.
These are all simmered together to create a lusciously tangy smooth sauce.
The final key to the sauce is to reserve some of the pasta cooking water; this helps the sauce to coat every strand of pasta.
Pasta Cooking Water?
Yes, just a scoop of the water the pasta was cooked in is the key to almost all great pasta sauces.
As the pasta cooks, it releases starch into the water, which helps the sauce cling to the pasta.
Most of my pasta recipes (of which there are currently 60+) say to remove a couple of cups of the pasta water before draining the pasta.
While you often only need to add a 1/4-1/2 cup to the sauce, it is always best to reserve extra. Just in case.
I usually buy frozen shelled cleaned shrimp and keep a bag in the deep freeze. They are an easy addition to dinners and can be defrosted quickly when needed.
Ideally, I look for 20-30 count shrimp; this means there are 20-30 shrimp per pound. Remember when buying shrimp, the small the count, the bigger the shrimp.
Frozen foods can get a bad rep, but with shrimp, it makes perfect sense. Fresh shrimp has a fridge life of a couple of days, whereas frozen shrimp are good for 6 months. Plus, most ‘fresh’ shrimp sold in grocery stores and supermarkets is shrimp that is frozen at sea and then defrosted in-store before being put on display.
When buying frozen shrimp, look for shrimp that have been individually frozen, rather than shrimp frozen as a block. These are often labeled as IQF (individually quick frozen).
How to quickly defrost shrimp
Place the frozen shrimp in a bowl and sprinkle with 1-2 tsp of salt. Add in room temperature water and allow the shrimp to sit for 10 minutes.
Drain and pat dry before cooking.
If you are not going to be cooking the shrimp right away, then use cold water in your bowl or defrost the shrimp in the refrigerator.
How to cook shrimp
Shrimp cook very quickly – around 3-5 minutes depending on the size.
As you cook, shrimp the color will change, and they will turn a pink/orange colour, lose their translucent look and go opaque.
Another great way to ensure you don’t overcook your shrimp is the shape. A perfectly cooked shrimp will have a C shape. Overcooked shrimp will curl up completely and resemble an O.
I remember it as:
Completely perfect = C
Overcooked = O
LEMONS – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE use fresh lemons for this recipe! They are far superior to the bottled juice and you need the zest of the lemon to really enhance the sauce.
PEPPER – Freshly ground black pepper from a pepper mill/grinder is the best pepper you can use here. It will have the nuttiest flavor and the subtle spice.
Next up is the store bought cracked pepper, this has good sized pieces of pepper.
Avoid the powdered black pepper as that doesn’t have the peppery bite and also can make your pasta taste powdery. IF that is all you have then reduce the amount in the recipe
PASTA – We like this with linguine, but any long pasta works well here. The delicate sauce is wonderful with angel hair or thin spaghetti. If you prefer a shape then a spiral shape will cling to the sauce well.
Cook the pasta for a minute less than the packet suggest. This is because the pasta will finish cooking in the sauce, where it soaks up the delicious flavors without getting overcooked.
What wine to drink with lemon pepper shrimp pasta?
Lemon sauces can be complicated to pair with wine, as the lemon juice softens wines and can sometimes make them taste sweet.
For this recipe, I love a glass of dry bubbly. The bubbles help to balance the butter and the lemon in the sauce. Make sure it is a crisp, dry wine, so the lemon doesn’t overpower it. Or pick a dry soave, which has tart notes that can be balanced by the zingy sauce.
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Lemon Pepper Shrimp Pasta
For the pasta
- 12 oz pasta – see note 1
- 1 tbsp salt
For the sauce
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb raw shrimp – shelled and deveined
- 3 garlic cloves – minced
- 1 cup broth – see note 2
- ½ cup white wine – see note 3
- 1 lemon – juice and zest
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper -see note 4
- ¼ cup butter – chopped into cubes
- fresh parsley
- Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and cook the 12 ounces/340g of pasta for 1 minute less than the packet instructions.
- Once cooked, reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid and drain the pasta.
- While pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet/frying pan over medium heat.
- Add in 1 pound/450g of raw shrimp and cook for 3 minutes, turning often. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.
- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and cook the minced garlic(3 cloves) over low heat for 1 minute.
- Pour in 1 cup/240ml of broth, 1/2 cup/125ml of wine, 2 tbsp of lemon juice and 1 tbsp of lemon zest — season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tsp of black pepper.
- Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced by about 1/2.
- Add 1/4 cup/56g of chopped butter to the sauce and turn up the heat.
- Add the drained pasta and the shrimp back into the pan and stir well.
- Add 1/2 cup/125ml of the reserved pasta water and keep stirring until the pasta has absorbed the sauce. (about 1-2 minutes) I find tongs work well for this as they can lift and turn the pasta quickly.
- Add more pasta water if needed.
- Serve immediately garnished with parsley.
- Pasta – we love this lemon pepper sauce with spaghetti, but the sauce will work with any long pasta, so use angel hair, linguine or tagliatelle. If you prefer a smaller pasta, this is equally good with a spiral pasta.
- You can use vegetable, chicken or seafood broth for the sauce. I like to use my homemade shrimp stock (recipe here).
- Use any dry white wine that you would happily drink. If you want to make this without wine, then add another tablespoon of lemon juice and 1/2 cup water. (If you replace the wine with broth then you will need to reduce the salt in the sauce)
- Try to use freshly ground black pepper from a pepper mill or the course cracked pepper you can buy in the grocery store. If you can only find the finely powdered pepper, then reduce the pepper by at least half.