Butter and Garlic Shrimp Penne

I don’t cook with shrimp very often and so when I do, I want the result to be good. As in, jaw-dropping, mouth-watering, worth-the-money, hoard-all-the-leftovers good.

This meal is just that. A delicious silky, light sauce comes together to coat the shrimp and pasta with a heady garlic and butter flavor that is lightened with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Honestly, this sauce is perfection, especially when paired with the tender, succulent shrimp.

The reactions in my house justified the indulgence: my husband’s jaw dropped, my kids’ mouths were watering, we were all convinced it was worth the splurge and I’ll let you figure out who hid all the leftovers. (Hint: I’ve been known to sneak into closets and eat precious food commodities before.)

Butter and Garlic Shrimp Penne

What To ServeRoasted Asparagus
A tasty green salad like this Spinach Strawberry Salad
Fresh, seasonal fruit

One Year Ago: Apple Cider Pudding Cake
Two Years Ago: Fusilli alla Caprese

Butter and Garlic Shrimp Penne

Yield: Serves 4-6

Butter and Garlic Shrimp Penne

Note: this meal comes together quickly, especially if you marinate the shrimp as you prepare the other ingredients.


  • 5 garlic cloves, minced (about 5 teaspoons)
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp (21 to 25 count), peeled, deveined and each shrimp cut into 3 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup clam juice (you can find this by the tuna, usually)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


  1. In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with 2 teaspoons of the minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let the shrimp stand in this mixture for 20 minutes at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the rest of the oil (2 tablespoons) over medium-low heat and add the smashed garlic cloves. Stir the mixture now and then to prevent the garlic burning and cook until the garlic is light and golden, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and use a slotted spoon to take out the garlic, leaving as much oil as you can in the skillet. Throw the garlic away and set the skillet aside.
  3. In a large pot, bring at least 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt once the water comes to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is tender (look at the package directions as each brand of pasta can differ). Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water in a small bowl. Once drained, throw the pasta back into the pot.
  4. While the pasta is boiling, return the skillet with the oil to medium heat and add the shrim with the marinade to the skillet, making sure the shrimp is in a single layer. Cook the shrimp, without stirring or moving them, until the oil starts to gently bubble, about 1 to 2 minutes. Now you can start stirring the shrimp and continuing to cook until the shrimp is just cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. It will cook fast so be careful not to overcook or the shrimp will turn tough.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a medium bowl. Add the remaining 3 teaspoon minced garlic and the red pepper flakes to the skillet and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the flour and stirring constantly, cook the mixture for 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken broth and cook, whisking constantly, for 1-2 minutes, until the clumps of flour incorporate and become smooth. Whisk in the clam juice and parsley and cook until the mixture begins to thicken 2-3 minutes. Take the skillet off the heat and whisk in the butter and lemon juice. Add the shrimp and sauce to the pasta, adjusting the consistency with the pasta water if it is too dry (I didn’t need to add any pasta water to mine). Serve immediately.

Recipe Source: slightly adapted from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen

52 Responses to Butter and Garlic Shrimp Penne

  1. Jenean graham says:

    I didn’t know what to make for dinner today until I came across your receipe. I followed the directions as is and cannot believe how delicious it is. My go to receipe for now on. Thank you for a great receipe.

  2. Nicole H says:

    We had this for dinner tonight but use chicken instead of shrimp, and added extra chicken broth for the clam juice. It was really good, and we like having variations from the regular ‘ol noodles with red sauce. I love that so many of your recipes can be easily adapted to personal tastes or budgets. You are a lifesaver when it comes to my dinner time brain cramps!

  3. Carra says:

    I made this last night for dinner and it was delicious! Even better reheated for lunch today. The directions seem a little lengthy for such a simple sauce but it’s pretty easy to make and very flavorful. I will make this again and again!

  4. Alia says:

    Sounds delicious, specially that I absolutely love shrimp! But I was wondering if there could be an alternative for clam juice because I don’t think I’ll be able to find it where I live. Thank you

  5. Dolev says:

    Hi, can I replace the clam juice with different liquid?

  6. Beth R says:

    This looks sooooo good. I love garlic, butter and pasta.However, in all my advanced years I have never been able to make myself eat shrimp that is not deepfried :/ I know how wrong that is and yet I just cant force myself to try a cold , raw shrimp. But this just might push me over the edge !

  7. Chii says:

    This looks great! I would love to try it, but is the shrimp called for precooked or raw?

  8. Kristie says:

    Amazing dish! This is the first recipe I’ve tried from your site and I was amazed. Fiancé and I loved it and will make it again. To anyone contemplating making this recipe, DO IT!!! You won’t regret it. The next time I just need to find shrimp that’s been shelled and cleaned. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

  9. Mel says:

    Darby – if you can find a fish stock made without clams, I’d recommend that. Otherwise, I’m really not sure. Vegetable broth might work but I have no idea how it would impact overall flavor. Good luck!

  10. darby says:

    Can you recommend a substitution door the clam juice? I am highly allergic to clams.

  11. Nan says:

    I’m going to try this with my homemade shrimp stock rather than clam juice. When you dehead and peel the shrimp, throw those scraps into a pot of water. Boil, strain, and freeze. The stock takes seafood dishes (especially gumbo) to a whole new level.

  12. Jjhunt says:

    Just made this for dinner tonight, husband is currently eating his second plate as I type. Was delicious. Added extra lemon juice and grated some fresh Parmesan cheese on each plate when served. Husband said was resturant quality and the garlic was perfectly balanced. Thanks, will be making it again.

  13. Cassie says:

    I made this recipe (with a little added cream) for myself, my boyfriend, and my roommates last night… everyone had seconds AND my boyfriend woke me up this morning to ask if he could have the leftovers! Fantastic dish, much appreciated!

  14. Masha says:

    I made this yesterday night and it was very good =)

  15. Sharlene says:

    So I was looking for a way to use up done shrimp that I had in the freezer and so I came to you’re website knowing that you would have a recipe that would not disappoint. and I was SO right! This recipe was amazing! So good that I wanted to luck my plate after my very generous portion of pasta that I served myself, my Hiragana and my sister in law. Not to mention, we had a ton left over. So this recipe makes a lot of food. I fallowed the recipe exactly and even added a little extra flour because the sauce wasn’t thickening like I thought it would have, so I ended up adding some heavy cream (about 3 tablespoons) and it thickened perfectly and added that amazing creaminess! When done I sprinkled with parmesan and fresh parsley and I was in carb heaven! I could eat this every day of my life… but for obvious reasons I won’t!

  16. Rachel Russell says:

    We LOVED!! (8 year old kept coming back for more. . )- added an extra squeeze of lemon for a more lemony kick- and will make again VERY soon! THANKS!!

  17. Susannah says:

    Holy Moly! This was mmm mmm good! This was my first recipe from your site. Sometimes I’m a bit skeptical to try new recipes from other sites as I just have a hesitant feeling it will be good. I don’t have that feeling with any of your recipes. I knew this shrimp pasta recipe would be amazing. Your site is TERRIFIC. I’m addicted. I plan on making the Coconut Chicken Curry tonight! Can’t wait! My husband loves curry, and I’ve never made it before.

  18. EmilyL says:

    I’m embarrassed to ask this, but can you tell me how and/or where you buy the shrimp? Are they already peeled and deveined? I imagine it’s best to use fresh, but is frozen ok too? I also don’t cook with shrimp much, though I love to eat it … I’m just not entirely sure how to do it. 🙂

    • Mel says:

      EmilyL – I always buy my shrimp frozen – it’s nearly impossible to get fresh shrimp landlocked where I live (and if it claims to be fresh, chances are it was frozen before they thawed it at the meat counter). I usually buy mine at Sam’s Club. They have a large selection of sizes (careful not to get the ones that are already cooked) and all of them are deveined already. You can buy frozen brands at the stores I’ve seen that are also peeled, too. I’d say look for frozen and chances are it will describe on the bag what has already been done to the shrimp (peeling, deveining, etc.). I wouldn’t buy it if it isn’t deveined. That is a tedious process and there are a lot of brands available where it is already done.

  19. Mandi says:

    I made this last week. I made a chicken version for my family and a shrimp version for myself. My husband took 2 helpings and that is like his seal of approval. He’s THE pickiest eater on the planet (he could win picky eater contests!) and when he had seconds I knew it was good. 🙂 I love shrimp and this was so good. Thank you!!

  20. Sarah says:

    Made this last night & it was SUPER yummy! It didn’t seem to thicken up all too much but covered the pasta nicely. Will definitely be a keeper! Thanks 🙂

  21. Heather says:

    Just had this for dinner…..man, so so so yummy! I had seconds and my husband had thirds. Hahaha. My only changes were that I added a little bit of whipping cream ( my husband likes his pasta a little creamer) and let it simmer down some before adding the butter and lemon and I added toasted pine nuts. We absolutely loved it!!!

    Thanks for your blog. I usually make 1 or 2 of your recipes per week…and sometimes the entire week. I even have my family and friends using your recipes now.

    • Mel says:

      Heather – my husband would probably welcome an element of creaminess, too. Glad this was a hit and I’m so happy you’ve been enjoying other recipes, too!

  22. Diane says:

    I just made this last night. My husband was swooning! Thanks. The only thing I did differently – that I’m not going to do again – was to buy smaller shrimp because they were cheaper, and leave them whole. (peeling and cleaning almost 1 1/2 pounds of 61-70 size shrimp is not fun…)
    But the recipe is amazing! Thanks again.

  23. Allie M. says:

    made this tonight…..it was AMAZING! You rock Melanie!

  24. Loralee says:

    I don’t but shrimp often and only when it’s on sale for cheap! So I will try this – I can always count on your recipes to be delicious!

  25. Joan says:

    This dish is very good. My seven year old gobbled it up. Although , I added more lemon juice, salt, and a touch of garlic powder, I will definitely make it for my family again. We have alot left over. Do you know if it will freeze well?

    • Mel says:

      Joan – glad this meal was a hit with everyone. Your changes sound great. I don’t imagine this dish is one that would freeze very well, unfortunately. I think the texture of the sauce and shrimp would be compromised.

  26. Naomi says:

    This was so yummy and came together really quick! I think I added too much red pepper because my 3 year old thought it was too spicy. Or he just wanted an excuse not to eat it. 🙂 I also didn’t have clam juice so I just substituted more chicken broth. My husband and I both had seconds!

    Thank you so much for doing this website, every recipe I have tried is delicious and I’ve tried a lot of them1

    • Mel says:

      Naomi – thanks for checking in on this recipe. I’m glad to know chicken broth worked for the clam juice! I’m happy you’ve liked the recipes you’ve tried – thanks for letting me know!

  27. Andrea says:

    Hey Melanie, I made this recipe today and it was so good. Every ingredient was essential and I loved the subtle hint of lemon with the seafood flavor. My husband loved it too! Next time I’m going to double the amount of shrimp 🙂

  28. Connie says:

    Hi, Melanie, I made this last night. My husband devoured it. Thanks for a delicious and easy recipe. Love your web site. Hope you have a fabulous week end.

  29. grace says:

    i definitely can see myself getting vicious in an attempt to eat my fair share of this. i’ve been known to stab at people with my fork…

  30. BertleMama says:

    sooo, have you ever tried this with chicken? Do you think it would turn out as well? I do not do sea food in any way shape or form, but this looks really good.

    • Mel says:

      BertleMama – I haven’t tried this with chicken, but can’t see why it wouldn’t work. You would get an entirely different flavor of course, because you would probably want to sub out the clam juice for chicken broth. Let me know if you try it!

  31. Lisa says:

    This looks fantastic! I’ll have to try it on my own–no one in my house likes shrimp! I wonder if you have any crafty crab recipes up your sleeves…

  32. Melanie says:

    I have loved all the recipes I’ve made so far. I just have to ask though– do you have any picky eaters in your house? These foods are so yummy but my kids squawk at new/different foods. How do you get them to eat these yummy foods?

    • Mel says:

      Melanie – My boys are pretty normal kids when it comes to eating – they balk at certain foods (especially beans and potatoes) but I think because I’ve always cooked such a large variety of foods (we don’t eat the same meals over and over, generally speaking, except for a few of our favorites) they are used to eating things that maybe other kids might not like as well, like shrimp, california sushi rolls, etc. But trust me, I definitely have those nights where I am dealing with gagging children and they are complaining about dinner. One of the biggest rules in our house is you don’t have to clean your plate (I don’t believe in that) but you DO have to take as many bites of dinner as your age. It has really helped them get used to new foods and now I see them gobbling things up like Indian foods and curries and they don’t think twice about it. I can’t count the times my boys have been complaining about how dinner looks or even smells. They refuse to partake. But when it comes down to them eating their requisite bites, they take their first bite and say, “Mom, I KNEW this would be good” and they eat their entire plate-full. I have a hard time not saying “I told you so.” I’m working on constructive, mature comments. 🙂

  33. Kim in MD says:

    This looks incredible, Mel! I am going to try it with chicken (due to shellfish allergies)! Thanks! 🙂

  34. StephenC says:

    To Jody: a little clam juice brings a wonderful flavor to a dish – just start with a little and see how your palate reacts to it. As for this recipe, it’s beautiful.

    • Mel says:

      Jody – Stephen is right, the clam juice brings out the flavor of the dish. It is definitely not a “fishy” dish and the flavor is more concentrated with the shrimp, so I would encourage you to be daring and try the clam juice. I think you’ll love it!

  35. Jody says:

    This might be kinda a silly question but, I have never really cooked with Clam juice and was wondering if it makes the dish fishy tasting? I love shrimp but never have been a fish/clam fan. This looks delicious!

  36. yet another meal I can’t wait to make! I never cook shrimp for some reason – it intimidates me, but you make me feel like I can do it 🙂

  37. Can’t go wrong with butter, garlic and shrimp!

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