Friday, January 29, 2010

Cleo Coyle’s (Healthier) Shrimp Scampi with Angel Hair

You will not find a recipe for "shrimp scampi" among the 1200+ pages of The Professional Chef, the cookbook of the CIA. (No, not the guys with black helicopters, the Culinary Institute of America.)

You will not find "shrimp scampi" in a cookbook of authentic Italian dishes, either. For one thing, "scampi" in Italian refers to Dublin Bay Prawns (the singular is scampo. So essentially the loose translation of "shrimp scampi" would be shrimp shrimp, which sounds even sillier than the oxymoron jumbo shrimp).

Like me, shrimp scampi was born in America; and on United States restaurant menus, ordering this dish usually means you'll be getting a gratin of large shrimp that have been split, brushed with plenty of butter & garlic and then broiled. Some restaurants like to serve it over pasta or rice. A famous chain of American seafood restaurants has long been known for its scampi. (You can even get Red Lobster's copycat scampi recipe by clicking here.)

My recipe below is not "authentic" shrimp scampi from any particular menu, it's simply my improvised, lighter version. The meal is satisfying yet healthy. Garlic, olive oil, fresh parsley, and seafood--all good stuff. You can make it even healthier by using a spinach, whole wheat, or low glycemic index pasta. When I make it, my husband inhales bowls of it, and I hope you enjoy it, too...

Cleo Coyle's (Healthier)
Shrimp Scampi with Angel Hair

Servings: about 4

20-24 Large Shrimp (fresh or frozen)
16 ounces pasta (1 box is usually 16 oz or 1 pound)
5 tablespoons olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic (roughly chopped)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (or 1/4 cup dried, but fresh tastes better!)
1/4 cup Italian Seasoned breadcrumbs (I use Progresso or 4C brand)
1/2 teaspoon oregano (dried is ok here)

(Optional finishers) Freshly ground pepper; a quick squeeze of fresh lemon wedge (or a bit of lemon zest grated over the top); sea salt; or freshly grated Pecorino Romano. Directions:

(1) First clean and peel your shrimp. (If using frozen, defrost first.) Then make your pasta according to the package directions. I like angel hair but any pasta will work. (To make this dish even more healthy, try spinach, whole wheat, or a specialty pasta with a low glycemic index.) Drain well and set aside.
(2) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Throw in the chopped garlic cloves and saute for a minute or two. Toss in
your shrimp. When the little fellas begin to turn pink (3 to 5 minutes, do not overcook or shrimp will be tough and rubbery), stop the cooking. Leave the oil in the pan but take out the shrimp and the garlic and set aside.

(3) Add the butter to the pan. When the butter melts, add your drained pasta to the pan, rolling around to coat well with the oil and butter. Toss in the Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, parsley, and oregano, and put your shrimp back into the pan to warm again.

(4) There is no need to add the chunks of garlic back in because the garlic has already imparted its flavor to the oil. However, if you really like garlic (as we do), then throw it back in there, baby! Toss all ingredients together and serve! Finish: Although there is much debate about whether to serve seafood pasta dishes with cheese, I do enjoy grating some nice, salty Pecorino Romano over the top. Freshly ground pepper is also nice on this dish and/or a squeeze of lemon.

Eat with joy!

To get more of my recipes or to learn
about the books in my
Coffeehouse Mystery series,
visit my official Web site:

Till next time,
~ Cleo Coyle

author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Comments welcome!


  1. I love shrimp scampi (shrimp-shrimp!) This fudged recipe sounds yummy, Cleo, thanks.

    There's a family recipe for pimento cheese that I make differently about each time I make it. There's no REAL recipe, I don't think. A little of this, a little of that. It changes every time. And when something works, I have to think about what the heck I put in there that time! :)

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Oh, does this sound wonderful, Cleo. Thanks for the history of Shrimp Scampi. I came *thisclose* to ordering a version of it last night, but the health (fat, carb) concerns stopped me. I think I would enjoy your version much more. Looking forward to trying it very, very soon. I love "fudging" recipes. That's where all the best ones come from!


  3. This looks great and I'm not even a big fan of shrimp.

  4. I'm cracking up, Cleo. I make a dish that's so similar. We just had it Sunday night! Mine is based on one of my favorite Spanish tapas -- Gambas al Ajillo -- Shrimp with Garlic.

    ~ Krista

  5. Yup, shrimp and garlic and pasta can never be wrong. It's so funny when you think of Italian dishes vs. Italian American dishes ... I mean, what region of Italy does eggplant rollatini come from again? Lol. I fudge my way through minestrone soup and it always comes out fab!

  6. Thanks, Cleo, for giving a healthier version of shrimp scampi. My husband and I are really, really trying to eat healthier this year and I've been tweaking recipes left and right. I'll try this one.

    Love your books, by the way. Love them, love them.

  7. Oh, yum. It's so hard to read this blog because I always end up hungry.

    My mother always used to put her own touch on a recipe--which usually involved adding vermouth. My husband is terrified of deviating from a recipe. Me? I love to experiment, tweak, fudge, whatever you want to call it. And improvise with whatever I find lurking in the fridge.

  8. GREAT pics, Cleo! Wonderful recipe and
    I had no idea shrimp scampi was an American
    thing. Now I am STARVING!
    Must go forage for food...

  9. Gee, the picture looks so wonderful it makes me wish I could eat shrimp! (I'm shrimp intolerant.) I have to watch and sigh while people all around me eat and enjoy them. (And why do they have to be do darned photogenic!)

  10. I love fudging the Kickin' Chickin' Salad from Logan's steakhouse. By accident I found a bottled Vidalia onion dressing that tastes almost exactly like there's, especially when some salsa is added to the salad.

  11. Cleo, I want to eat the picture! Wow!

  12. Replies to...

    @Elizabeth/Riley – Your family recipe for pimento cheese sounds fantastic. I hope you share it with us some day soon. I was the same way with this recipe—never wrote it down, never measured our proportions, just threw it together. This blog is great for making us document some of our kitchen creations.

    @Julie – Oh, yes. There’s nothing like a sizzling gratin of buttery shrimp coming at you on a waiter's tray. Now I’m wondering what you ordered instead, lol!

    @Mason – Thank you, Mason.

    @Krista – Okay, now you KNOW what I'm going to say, right? You MUST do that Spanish tapas dish for all of us! Can’t wait! BTW - I must compliment you again for that amazing Thanksgiving tip on drying out your bird in the fridge a day before roasting. (If anyone would like to see the post I'm talking about click here) My husband and I made 2 roasted chickens for dinner tonight and I dried out the birds in the fridge overnight, just as you suggested. The skin was so crisp and beautiful! Delicious! Thank you!


  13. Replies to...

    @Trix – Lol on the eggplant rollatini! I was almost going to make a comment in my post today about spaghetti and meatballs being an American invention, too. This point has been made many times by many people in many venues, but as I looked into it, I was surprised to find sources saying certain parts of Italy did indeed eat spaghetti and meatballs. Go figure! (And I would love to taste your minestrone soup!) Thank you so much for dropping in, Trix!

    @Kay – Thank you! I mean it. A writer never, ever (ever!) tires of hearing the words “Love your books”! And I’m right there with you on trying to find healthier versions of favorite dishes. Not that I won’t continue to publish completely decadent recipes in my Coffeehouse Mysteries or right here on this blog…but when I think a dish can be done in a lighter way without sacrificing flavor, I’ll do my best to execute it with those healthier ingredients or methods in mind. Thank you again for dropping by today, Kay!

    @Sheila – LOL on your creative streak with all things culinary. Laughing also on the idea of your mother adding vermouth to everything. I’m sure it took the edge off. I’m working on a recipe that involves a bourbon reduction. During one test dinner, I didn’t reduce the alcohol quite enough. Half-way through the meal I was sloshed (I’m a pathetically cheap drunk). But experimentation is the spice of life!

    @Jenn – Thank you! You know, between Sheila scouting out the “lurking” ingredients and you “foraging” in the fridge, this is starting to sound like an episode of culinary Survivor. I can almost hear the tribal drums!

    ~ Cleo

  14. Replies to...

    @Lorna - I feel your pain! I love shrimp and would hate to give it up. But your health is more important. My apologies for the food porn temptation! And thanks again for giving me the inspiration for this blog post! LOL!

    @Janel - No Logan's steakhouses here in NYC yet, but that salad sounds intriguing. Here's how the restaurant describes it on their website. Kickin' Logan's Chickin' Salad: Blackened chicken over Romaine lettuce, tomato, shredded cheese, & Roasted Corn & Black Bean salsa, all tossed with spicy Roadhouse Ranch & crispy tortillas. (Okay, now I'm hungry again.)

    Eat with joy!
    ~ Cleo Coyle
    “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  15. This looks amazing, Cleo! Nothin' wrong with making a healthier Scampi. If folks still need some butter in it, I always say just halve the butter and add some olive oil. But, I think it can be done without the churned cream and still be delicious ... and, now, you've proven it! ;)

  16. I've never tried shrimp scampi at home, so thanks for the great recipe! Love the lightened-up version plus it looks easy enough to make on a weeknight--

  17. I love shrimp scampi because if I have shrimp - I always have the ingredients. Smetimes i bake them, often I saute them - and it's pretty close to this recipe. Love it over pasta and love making it at home - because I can have more than the 6-appointed shrimp that restaurants serve!

  18. Much as I love the "shrimp scampi" dish, I always have to giggle when I see it on the menu because of the translation! The version you've cooked up here looks good - enough butter to make it taste "right," but mostly olive oil to cut down on those saturated fats.

  19. Oh boy Shrimp Scampi what a heavenly entree for Valentines Day a wonderful dish and the picture is fabulously capturing the best looking shrimp I have ever seen wow!