30-Minute Dinner/ Dinner/ fish and seafood/ pasta/ Valentine's Day

Shrimp pesto pasta with zucchini

25 April 2020

This shrimp pesto pasta with zucchini is simple, delicious, and colorful – it looks so pretty on a plate. It’s a great idea for a quick lunch after work and perfect as well for a more elegant occasion. This light and flavorful dish is really a keeper!

Shrimp pesto pasta with zucchini on a white plate

What you’ll need / Ingredient substitutions:

This dish is really so simple. All you need to do is quickly pan-fry the shrimps and zucchini in a pan, then season with a little lemon juice and basil pesto.

Instead of lemon juice, you can add a splash of dry white wine. If you’re using white wine, try to add some grated lemon zest, if you have it on hand. It really brightens the dish up.

The reason for adding fresh tomatoes is they make the whole dish lighter. I used date tomatoes here, I really like their denser texture, they’re more flavourful in my opinion as, for example, cherry tomatoes.

As for the pesto, you can use store-bought pesto or make your own. Here you’ll find the basic basil pesto recipe (the post includes lots of alternative ingredients ideas). It’s really worth making homemade pesto, you just have to mix a few ingredients together and it tastes a lot better than the one from a jar. Instead of basil pesto, this ramp pesto (wild garlic pesto) or parsley pesto would also work well!

This dish can be easily modified:

Pasta: I used fusilli, but spaghetti would also be great.

You can omit the zucchini. Instead of it you can use green beans or asparagus.

Instead of shrimp, you can use chicken.

shrimp pesto pasta ingredients

How to make shrimp pesto pasta with zucchini step by step:

STEP 1: Start with cooking 6 oz (160g) pasta al dente (it means it should have a bite to it and not be overcooked).

cooked shrimp in a black frying pan

STEP 2: Cook the shrimp:

Heat 2 Tbsp of clarified butter on a large frying pan. Cook 8oz (225g) shrimp, first for 2-3 minutes on one side, until golden, then turn them over and cook for about 30 seconds on the other side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, stir and transfer to a plate.

How to know if the shrimp is cooked through: Shrimp only need to change their color from gray to pink, if cooked for too long will be tough and rubbery.

What is clarified butter: this is regular butter from which milk solids (proteins) have been removed. It tastes almost the same like the regular butter but can be used for frying as it doesn’t burn so quickly as regular butter. Since the shrimp is being cooked very quickly you can use regular butter, it will brown a little (which means you’ll make brown butter which tastes amazing) but the chances it will burn are small. You can not use butter for other protein sources like chicken, which require longer cooking time. You can also just use frying oil.

There is also other way to incorporate some delicious butter flavor to the shrimp: you can cook the shrimp in a small amount of frying oil and add a tablespoon of butter at the end of cooking time.

If you have time, cook the shrimp in two batches. They will be easier to brown when are not overcrowded.

For this recipe, you need thawed, peeled, and deveined shrimp. This is a helpful tutorial on how you can peel and devein shrimp yourself.

How to thaw shrimp: Put them into a bowl filled with cold water and set aside until thawed (it should take about 15-30 mins). When they’re ready, pat them dry thoroughly with paper towels (it would be better to do it the day before and leave them in the fridge to dry a little – it will be easier to brown them, but this step is not necessary).

cooked zucchini in a black frying pan

STEP 3: Cook the zucchini:

Cut 1 medium zucchini lengthwise in half, then into ½ cm / ¼ inch slices. Add to the pan, cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender. Try not to stir it to often, letting the zucchini brown.

Add 2 Tbsp of lemon juice (or a splash of dry white wine, about 3-4 Tbsp) to the pan, season with salt and pepper, scrape with a spatula all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

all the ingredients for the shrimp pesto pasta in a black frying pan

STEP 4: Remove the pan from the heat and add all the other ingredients: the cooked pasta, shrimps, 10-12 cut in half date tomatoes and 2/3 cup of basil pesto.

ready shrimp pesto pasta with zucchini in a black frying pan

STEP 5: Stir everything together, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve sprinkled with basil leaves and optionally grated Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

Storage / How to make this dish ahead:

You can store this pasta dish in the fridge for up to 2 days and simply reheat it until warm. If all the ingredients are combined then you can expect that the pasta won’t be so nice al dente as freshly cooked, but the dish will still taste good.

If you plan on making this dish for a couple of days it would be best to store all the ingredients separately. Cut the tomatoes in half just before serving. You can cook the pasta ahead or just before serving. Homemade pesto can be stored for up to a week (you’ll find all the information about it in the basil pesto post).

Other quick pasta dishes you may like:

two plates with shrimp pesto pasta on a light blue background

Shrimp zucchini and basil pesto pasta

Quick to prepare, aromatic and well-seasoned pasta. Perfect for lunch after work and for a more elegant occasion. 
BASIL PESTO RECIPE
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 2 servings
Calories 811kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

pasta:

  • 6 oz (160g) pasta fusilli or spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons clarified butter or frying oil
  • 8 oz (225g) shrimp/prawn peeled, deveined, and thawed if frozen
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 10 date tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup basil pesto or the whole amount of my homemade basil pesto recipe (linked above)
  • salt and pepper to taste

to serve:

  • basil leaves
  • grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta al dente.
  • If you’re using frozen shrimps, thaw them – put them into a bowl filled with cold water and set aside until thawed. When they're ready, pat them dry thoroughly with paper towels (it would be better to do it the day before and leave them in the fridge to dry a little – it will be easier to brown them, but this step is not necessary).
  • Heat clarified butter on a large frying pan. Cook the shrimp, preferably in two batches, first for 2-3 minutes on one side, until golden, then turn them over and cook for about 30 seconds on the other side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, stir and transfer to a plate. Shrimp only need to change their color from gray to pink, if cooked for too long will be tough and rubbery. If you don’t have clarified butter, you can fry the shrimp in a small amount of frying oil and add a tablespoon of butter at the end of cooking time (so that the butter won't burn).
  • Cut the zucchini lengthwise in half, then into ½ cm / ¼ inch slices. Add to the pan, cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender.
  • Add lemon juice (or wine) to the pan, season with salt and pepper, scrape with a spatula all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, add the cooked pasta, shrimps, cut in half tomatoes and basil pesto.
  • Stir everything together, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve sprinkled with basil leaves and optionally grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • Instead of lemon juice, you can add a splash of dry white wine. Add it to the pan just after cooking the zucchini. Stir the wine with the zucchini until it’s almost evaporated.
  • You can omit the zucchini or use green beans or asparagus instead.
  • Instead of shrimp, you can use chicken.
  • You can use other pesto than basil pesto, for example, ramp pesto (wild garlic pesto) or parsley pesto.
  • Storage / How to make this dish ahead:
    • You can store this pasta dish in the fridge for up to 2 days and simply reheat it until warm. If all the ingredients are combined then you can expect that the pasta won’t be so nice al dente as freshly cooked, but the dish will still taste good.
    • If you plan on making this dish for a couple of days it would be best to store all the ingredients separately. Cut the tomatoes in half just before serving. You can cook the pasta ahead or just before serving. Homemade pesto can be stored for up to a week (you’ll find all the information about it in the basil pesto post).
  • Calories count = 1/2 of the recipe (1 serving). This is only an estimate!
Course dinner
Cuisine international, Italian
Keyword shrimp pesto pasta, zucchini and shrimp pasta

Did you make this recipe? Let me know how you liked it and give it a star rating in the comments below! You can also add a photo of your creation!

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