Shrimp and pasta make a classic pair that is easy to make and satisfying to eat. With the variety of pasta shapes and sauces available, the possibilities for shrimp pasta dishes are nearly endless. However, it can be tricky to figure out what to serve alongside shrimp pasta to make a complete meal. The right side dishes and appetizers can take your shrimp pasta from basic to brilliant. Keep reading for tips, recipes, and pairing ideas for fantastic shrimp and pasta meals.
What Goes Well with Shrimp Pasta Dishes?
When serving shrimp with pasta, think about contrasts in flavors, textures, and colors to make your meal more interesting. Here are some elements to consider:
Bright, fresh vegetables pair perfectly with creamy or tomato-based pasta sauces.
– Leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula, or broccoli rabe add color and nutrients. Saute them and mix into pasta or serve on the side.
– Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, or peppers.
– Quick-cooking veggies like peas, broccoli, or asparagus can be added in the last few minutes of cooking pasta.
Crunchy, crusty bread makes the perfect accompaniment for sopping up luscious pasta sauces. Baguettes, ciabatta, or garlic bread are all excellent options. For gluten-free diners, rice crackers or a crisp green salad with breadsticks can substitute.
If your pasta dish doesn’t already contain sufficient protein, consider pairing it with:
– Chicken, turkey, or pork tenderloin
– Hearty white fish like halibut or cod
– Seared scallops or mussels
– Italian sausage, meatballs, or prosciutto
– Tofu or edamame for vegetarian meals
The creamy goodness of cheese enhances pasta in so many ways. Opt for hard grating cheeses like Parmesan, pecorino, or Manchego to sprinkle on top of saucy pasta dishes. Soft cheeses like mozzarella, burrata, ricotta, or goat cheese can be added to the pasta or served on the side.
Herbs and Seasonings
Don’t forget to finish pasta dishes with fresh herbs like parsley, basil, oregano, or thyme and seasonings like crushed red pepper, garlic, lemon zest, or a good drizzle of olive oil. This adds brightness and complexity.
Full Meal Ideas
Here are suggested pairings for nine delicious shrimp and pasta combinations:
Lemon Shrimp Linguine
– Side salad of mixed greens with crisp prosciutto and shaved Parmesan
– Garlic bread or knots
– Steamed broccoli drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice
Spicy Cajun Shrimp and Sausage Pasta
– Cornbread with honey butter
– Coleslaw or potato salad
– Sauteed greens like spinach or kale
Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo
– Garlic breadsticks
– Roasted asparagus or broccoli
– Tossed green salad with creamy dressing
Shrimp Pasta Primavera
– Mixed green salad
– Roasted zucchini, eggplant, carrots, and bell peppers
– Crusty baguette or focaccia
Pasta with Shrimp, White Wine, and Tomato Sauce
– Bruschetta topped with tomato, basil, and mozzarella
– Sauteed broccolini
– Fennel and citrus salad
Shrimp Scampi with Angel Hair Pasta
– Ceasar salad
– Cheesy garlic bread
– Sauteed spinach with lemon and pine nuts
Creamy Shrimp and Mascarpone Pasta
– Roasted asparagus
– Fresh mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and balsamic
– Focaccia bread
Shrimp Pesto Pasta
– Caprese salad with tomato, mozzarella, and basil
– Garlic knots or breadsticks
– Sauteed summer squash and zucchini
Cajun Shrimp over Gnocchi
– Steamed broccoli and carrots
– Arugula and shaved Parmesan salad
– Skillet corn bread
Choosing the Right Sauces and Sides
With so many options for shrimp pasta recipes, how do you select sauces and sides that will taste great together? Keep these tips in mind:
Consider the base flavors
– Rich, creamy sauces pair well with bright, acidic flavors like lemon or lighter veggies.
– Spicy tomato or red sauce dishes need cooling, creamy sides like yoghurt dressing or macaroni salad.
– For garlic-heavy or wine-based sauces, roasted vegetables and greens nicely complement without competing flavors.
Look for color contrasts
– Pair rich red tomato sauce with bright green vegetables or salads.
– Lemony pasta looks beautiful with red roasted peppers or tomatoes.
– Avoid too much of one color on the plate for a more appealing meal.
Texture plays a role
– Soft creamy pastas and sauces need crunch, so add croutons, nuts, or roasted veggies.
– Toothsome whole grain pasta can handle heartier sauces as well as side salads.
– Gnocchi or tortellini have dense textures, so pair with lighter vegetable sides.
Consider dietary needs
– Substitute gluten-free pasta and sides for gluten-free guests.
– For vegetarian meals, include protein-rich sides like beans, cheese, eggs, or tofu.
– Add bright produce for low-carb diets along with small pasta portions.
Full Menus for Special Occasions
Shrimp pasta makes for an elegant, easy meal for entertaining or special occasions. Here are some full menus for holidays and dinner parties:
Valentine’s Day Dinner
– Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Linguine
– Goat cheese and pistachio stuffed mushrooms
– Roasted asparagus with lemon and parmesan
– Chocolate covered strawberries for dessert
Birthday Dinner Party
– Pesto pasta with shrimp and scallops
– Caesar salad with garlic croutons
– Cheesy garlic bread
– Tiramisu cake
– Spring primavera pasta with shrimp, peas, and asparagus
– Charcuterie and cheese board
– Strawberry spinach salad with champagne vinaigrette
– Lemon meringue pie or coconut cake
Cinco de Mayo Gathering
– Spicy shrimp fajita pasta
– Chicken and cheese quesadillas
– Mexican street corn salad
– Tres leches cake
– Shrimp pesto pasta salad
– Grilled vegetables: zucchini, eggplant, peppers
– Watermelon feta salad
– Coconut popsicles
Make-Ahead Strategies for Entertaining
Prepare components ahead of time so you can relax with guests:
– Cook shrimp and pasta 1 day ahead. Toss with sauce just before serving.
– Prep salad ingredients and refrigerate separately. Assemble salad at the last minute.
– Make dough for garlic bread or knots up to 2 days ahead. Bake just before the meal.
– Roast or grill veggies a day ahead. Reheat or serve at room temp.
– Make desserts 1-2 days before and store covered in the fridge.
– Set the table and get beverages chilled a few hours before guests arrive.
– Make sure you have enough chairs, serving utensils, and seating.
Kid-Friendly Shrimp Pasta Recipes
Here are some tasty shrimp pasta recipes your kids are sure to love:
Creamy Tomato Shrimp Pasta
Kid-friendly creamy tomato sauce with parmesan, garlic, basil, and shrimp over penne. Serve with steamed broccoli.
Fettuccine in a simple alfredo sauce with shrimp. Serve with rolls or garlic bread.
Shrimp Mac and Cheese
Add shrimp to tasty homemade macaroni and cheese. Serve with carrot and celery sticks.
Pineapple Shrimp Pasta Salad
Bowtie pasta with shrimp, pineapple, red bell pepper in a sweet and tangy mayo dressing.
Cheesy quesadillas loaded with sauteed shrimp and veggies. Great paired with rice and beans.
Pizza crust topped with marinara sauce, cheese, shrimp, and any other favorite toppings.
Low Carb/Keto Shrimp Pasta Alternatives
Enjoy the classic flavors of shrimp scampi or tomato shrimp pasta recipes while reducing carbs with these substitutions:
Spiralized or julienned zucchini takes the place of pasta noodles – just watch cooking times.
Once roasted, the flesh can be scraped into long noodle-like strands.
For a store-bought option, these heart of palm noodles mimic pasta.
Miracle Noodles/Shirataki Noodles
Made from konjac yam flour, these very low carb noodles are gelatinous. Rinse well and cook before using.
Bucatini Squash Noodles
Roasted butternut squash sliced into hollow noodle shapes works perfectly in shrimp pasta recipes.
Riced or chopped cauliflower stands in for pasta in a shrimp and “rice” dish.
Slices of roasted eggplant can be layered or served over shrimp sauces for a low carb alternative.
Thin slices or ribbons of raw cabbage can be cooked briefly to use instead of pasta.
Shrimp Pasta Recipe Inspiration
Here are just a few delicious shrimp and pasta recipe ideas to get you started:
Classic Shrimp Scampi
Succulent shrimp in garlicky butter sauce tossed with linguine and parsley.
Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo
Creamy, rich alfredo sauce coats fettuccine noodles and plump shrimp.
Shrimp Pad Thai
Rice noodles stir fried with shrimp, eggs, peanuts, green onions, and sweet/tangy tamarind sauce.
Spicy Cajun Shrimp Pasta
Penne pasta and sauteed shrimp in a blend of tomatoes, cajun seasoning, bell peppers, and cream.
Lemon Butter Shrimp Piccata
Angel hair pasta served with garlic, white wine, lemon, and caper sauce with shrimp.
Shrimp Pesto Linguine
Bursting with flavor from basil pesto, tomatoes, and garlicky shrimp over linguine.
Creamy Tomato Shrimp Rigatoni
Rigatoni and shrimp in hearty tomato cream sauce flavored with basil and parmesan.
Greek Shrimp Orzo Salad
Orzo pasta, shrimp, cucumber, tomato, olives, feta, lemon, olive oil, oregano, and dill.
Cajun Shrimp and Sausage Pasta
Penne with spicy andouille sausage, shrimp, onion, peppers, and cajun seasonings.
Converting Recipes for Instant Pot
Love your Instant Pot? Many shrimp and pasta recipes can be adapted:
– Adjust liquid to 1 cup for IP. May need to reduce or omit additional liquids in sauce.
– Skip steps for sauteing onions, garlic, veggies in separate pan if possible. Can saute briefly in IP first.
– For recipes with seafood stock added, use chicken broth instead.
– Add pasta and shrimp on top, do not stir in before cooking. Use pot-in-pot method if needed.
– Cook “al dente” pasta about 2 minutes less than package directions if cooking together.
– Quick release pressure after cooking time. Stir in additional sauce ingredients after releasing.
– For creamy sauces, add cream after pressure cooking to avoid curdling.
– Make sure pasta is covered with at least 1/2 inch liquid. Use a liner in pot if needed.
– Adjust cook times based on quantity. For example, 2 mins for 2-4 servings or 4 mins for 4-6 servings.
Tips for Cooking Perfect Pasta
Achieving properly cooked (al dente!) pasta makes a big difference in the overall dish. Here are some foolproof tips:
– Use a large pot and plenty of water – at least 4 quarts of water for every pound of pasta.
– Add a couple tablespoons of salt to the pasta cooking water. This helps infuse flavor.
– Bring the water to a full rolling boil before adding pasta.
– Stir pasta immediately after adding to prevent sticking.
– Cook pasta according to package directions, testing 2-3 minutes earlier. When done, it should be chewy, not mushy.
– Reserve about 1 cup pasta water before draining to use in the sauce. The starch adds nice body.
– Don’t rinse pasta after draining! The starch on the noodles helps the sauce stick.
– If reheating a pasta dish, add a splash of water to restore moisture and prevent sticking.
Shrimp Pasta Recipe Photo Inspiration
Shrimp and pasta are a match made in heaven, with so many possible sauce, seasoning, and side dish combinations. By focusing on color and texture contrasts and flavors that complement – not compete – you’re sure to create a mouthwatering meal. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different pasta shapes, vegetables, herbs, and serving suggestions. The key is to have fun in the kitchen playing with all the delicious possibilities! Whatever combo you land on, a shrimp and pasta dish is sure to satisfy.