Not only is this creamy garlic shrimp pasta incredibly delicious with all that garlic butter parmesan flavor, but it is also so quick and easy to make!

Simple and fast enough for a weeknight dinner, this creamy shrimp pasta is also restaurant-level good.

Take a look at the recipe to see a hack for lightening up a normally rich and heavy cream-laden dish!

Shrimp with creamy pasta on white plate.

What Kind of Shrimp to Use

The truth is, most of us are going to be dealing with frozen shrimp – not fresh caught. Even the shrimp at most meat counters in the grocery store is shrimp that has been frozen and thawed.

I like to use large shrimp for this recipe. The package is labeled 21 to 30 shrimp per pound (or thereabouts). But really any size of shrimp can be used.

Toss the shrimp with smoked paprika, salt and pepper.

Smoked paprika is the KEY to layers of delicious flavor in this recipe. If you don’t have smoked paprika, you can use regular paprika, but it’s worth getting your hands on some smoked paprika, I promise.

Raw shrimp tossed in paprika in glass bowl.

Cook the shrimp in a skillet in a single layer until beautifully pink and cooked through.

It won’t take long! Shrimp cooks very quickly, and you don’t want it to overcook.

You’ll likely want to do this in two batches so the pan isn’t too crowded.

Cooked shrimp in paprika and garlic in skillet.

Making the Creamy Garlic Butter Sauce

The first step in the creamy sauce is sizzling butter and garlic together until fragrant. YUM.

Next, you’re going to follow your heart and decide how you want to creamify the sauce.

Here are your options:

  1. Use heavy cream*. It’s thick and luxurious and rich and never grainy.
  2. Use milk + a little bit of cornstarch. It’s light (both in texture and calories) and creamy and simple and smooth.

I’ve made this recipe with both options, and honestly, each variation is really, really delicious. The heavy cream version makes a slightly silkier sauce, but the milk + cornstarch version is wonderful, too, and is usually the way I make it.

*Depending on what brand of heavy cream you have on hand, you can still whisk the heavy cream with cornstarch for a thicker sauce. I find that different brands of heavy cream vary quite a bit in thickness. Heavy cream labeled 38 to 40% cream will be very thick (that’s generally the kind I buy from Costco).

Pouring milk into skillet with paprika and butter.

Simmer and Toss

Cook the sauce at a low simmer for just a few minutes until slightly thickened. Then add the Parmesan cheese and whisk until the cheese is melted.

Freshly grated Parmesan is best here – it will melt far better than pre-shredded Parmesan cheese.

Using tongs to toss pasta in cream sauce.

Important Note About the Pasta

Helpful Timing Tip: start the water boiling for the pasta at the very beginning and then get working on the shrimp and sauce. Take a quick break to add the pasta. While the pasta cooks, you can finish up the other components.

The most important thing to remember about this recipe is that you need to ladle out and reserve a cup or so of the pasta water before draining the pasta!

Every time I’ve made this recipe, I’ve ended up using a good portion of the reserved pasta water to help loosen up the sauce. The starchy pasta water amplifies the creaminess of the sauce and helps the pasta not become stodgy and sticky.

Linguine pasta with cream sauce, cooked shrimp and fresh parsley.

Serve Immediately {Plus a Note About Leftovers}

This pasta benefits greatly from being served immediately. Because this dish is light on sauce anyway, the longer it sits, the less creamy it becomes.

You can definitely increase the sauce ingredients for a saucier pasta, but I find the sauce amount in the recipe is a perfect compliment to the pasta and shrimp without being overwhelming.

Interestingly, for a light-on-sauce-pasta, I think the leftovers are FABULOUS, which isn’t always the case with leftover pasta.

Heated up slightly (or yes, even eaten cold), the leftovers are more reminiscent of pasta salad than a decadent pasta dish – and it just really works for me. As in: Hi, I’m Mel, the leftover hoarder, it’s real nice to meet you.

Twisting fork in creamy linguine with shrimp.

What to Serve With This

One Year Ago: Easy Cheesy Breadsticks
Two Years Ago: Easy Yogurt Flatbread 
Three Years Ago: Lemon Bar White Chocolate Brownies 
Four Years Ago: Easy Choco-Banana Bars 
Five Years Ago: Extra Fudgy Brownies {One Bowl!} 
Six Years Ago: The Best White Sandwich Bread
Seven Years Ago: Soft Baked Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie {Egg-Free}
Eight Years Ago: Fudgy Coconut Oil Brownie Bites
Nine Years Ago: Incredible Chocolate Pudding {Dairy, Egg and Gluten Free}
Ten Years Ago: Chocolate Frosted Brownies

Cooked shrimp on creamy linguine on white plate.

Creamy Garlic Shrimp Pasta

4.81 stars (31 ratings)

Ingredients

Pasta + Shrimp:

  • 1 to 2 pounds peeled, deveined shrimp (remove tails, if needed) – see note
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12 ounces linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 ½ cups milk (not skim) or heavy cream (see note!)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped, fresh parsley, for garnish
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Instructions 

  • Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp together with the smoked paprika and a small pinch or so of salt and pepper.
  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions. BEFORE DRAINING, ladle out 1-2 cups of the pasta water and set aside for later. Drain the pasta.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat the 1 tablespoon butter + 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch skillet (or a deep skillet) over medium heat until hot and rippling. Add half of the shrimp in a single layer and cook for 30-45 seconds; flip the shrimp and cook just until the shrimp have turned pink and are cooked through (it won't take long!).
  • Using tongs, remove the shrimp to a plate keeping as much butter/liquid in the pan as possible. Repeat with remaining shrimp – removing to the plate with the other shrimp when done cooking.
  • Return the pan to medium heat and melt the 2 tablespoons butter. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often (don't let it burn!), until fragrant, about 30-45 seconds.
  • If using milk, whisk it together with the cornstarch (see note below). Pour the milk mixture (or heavy cream, if using) into the pan and whisk to combine, letting the sauce bubble and thicken slightly, 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Stir over medium heat until the cheese is melted.
  • Add the cooked noodles, lifting and tossing with tongs to coat the pasta thoroughly with the sauce. Add spoonfuls of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce and pasta (just eyeball it – probably won't need to add all the reserved water).
  • Add the shrimp and toss to combine with the pasta. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed! Sprinkle with fresh parsley.
  • Serve immediately (for maximum creaminess)! Serve with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Notes

Shrimp: any size shrimp can be used; I prefer using larger shrimp – package is labeled “21 to 30 shrimp per pound” – or thereabouts. If using frozen shrimp, thaw before using. I prefer using 2 pounds of shrimp for this recipe so there is a good amount of shrimp per serving, but you can cut back to using 1 pound. 
Cornstarch: I only use the cornstarch if I’m using milk in the recipe. If using heavy cream, the cornstarch isn’t necessary unless you want a thicker sauce. 
Sauce: the sauce ingredients can easily be increased if you want a saucier pasta. 
Parmesan Cheese: preshredded Parmesan cheese won’t melt as well in the sauce and may lend a gritty/lumpy texture to the sauce. 
Nutrition Facts: the nutrition facts for this recipe are calculated using lowfat milk (not heavy cream). Also please remember the nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy and are just an estimate, not a guarantee.
Serving: 1 serving, Calories: 371kcal, Carbohydrates: 41g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 107mg, Sodium: 659mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 4g

Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe