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

Shrimp Pesto Pasta

25 April 2020 | Last Updated: 9 July 2021 By Aleksandra

This shrimp pesto pasta is simple, delicious, and it comes together in about 30 minutes. It’s a great idea for a quick lunch after work and it’s perfect for a more elegant occasion as well. Juicy shrimp, flavorful basil pesto, crunchy zucchini, and fresh sweet tomatoes. This light and flavorful dish is really a keeper!

Shrimp pesto pasta in a green bowl. Basil leaves, lemons and tomatoes in the background.

Recipe ingredients and substitutions

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

Here’s what you need:

  • Shrimp – you can also use chicken breast instead – cut it into bite-sized pieces and pan-fry just like shrimp.
  • Pasta – you can use any kind of short pasta like fusilli, penne, or macaroni.
  • Zucchini – you can also use other vegetables like broccoli, green beans, or asparagus.
  • 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. I prefer lemon juice over wine in this dish.
  • Grape tomatoes – the reason for adding fresh tomatoes is they make the whole dish lighter, fresh tomatoes are also more crunchy than soft cooked tomatoes so this adds another texture to the dish. I used grape tomatoes here, I really like their denser texture, and they’re more flavourful in my opinion as, for example, cherry tomatoes. Date tomatoes are also very good. You can use any type of tomato.
  • 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. Basil pesto works best here but you can also use another type of pesto like wild garlic (ramp) pesto, arugula pesto, parsley pesto, or celery leaf pesto.
Labeled ingredients needed to prepare shrimp pesto pasta.

Shrimp pesto pasta 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 (or oil) on a large frying pan over high heat. 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 or until done. Season 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/translucent to pink, if cooked for too long will be tough and rubbery. You can cut one shrimp in half to see if it’s done in the middle

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 with a small amount of frying oil, 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 requires a longer cooking time. You can also just use frying oil.

There is also another 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 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 ¼ inch (½ cm) slices. Add to the pan, cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned, tender, and still crunchy. Try not to stir it too often, letting the zucchini brown.

Add 2 Tbsp of lemon juice 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, shrimp, 10 cut in half grape tomatoes, and 1/2 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

Shrimp pesto pasta in a green bowl. Basil leaves, lemons and tomatoes in the background.

Shrimp Pesto Pasta

This shrimp pesto pasta is simple, delicious, and it comes together in about 30 minutes. It’s a great idea for a quick lunch after work and it’s perfect for a more elegant occasion as well. Juicy shrimp, flavorful basil pesto, crunchy zucchini, and fresh sweet tomatoes. This light and flavorful dish is really a keeper!
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Shrimp pesto pasta in a green bowl.
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No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 2 servings
Calories 811kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

pasta:

  • 6 oz fusilli pasta 170g
  • 2 tablespoons clarified butter or frying oil
  • 8 oz shrimp 225g, peeled, deveined, and thawed if frozen
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 10 grape tomatoes or cherry/date tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto
  • salt and pepper to taste

to serve:

  • basil leaves
  • grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta al dente (it should have a little bite to it but be cooked through).
  • Heat clarified butter or oil in a large frying pan over high heat. 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 or until done. 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 ¼ inch (½ cm) slices. Add to the pan, cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned, tender, but still crunchy.
  • Add lemon juice 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

  • 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 this 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).
  • 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, broccoli, 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, celery leaf pesto, or arugula 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 nicely 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 Main Course
Cuisine international
Keyword shrimp pesto pasta, shrimp zucchini pasta

Did you make this recipe? RATE THE RECIPE or tell me in the COMMENTS how you liked it! You can also add a photo of your dish. It would make me very happy and will help other readers. Thank you!!

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