Shrimp Pesto Pasta Recipe

5 from 1 vote
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Shrimp pesto pasta is a delicious and fresh-tasting pasta recipe made with sauteed garlicky shrimp. It’s an incredibly simple dish to pull together in 30 minutes and it tastes amazing thanks to freshly made homemade basil pesto.

Tongs tossing homemade pesto pasta with shrimp

Trust me when I tell you that your pesto pasta dinner is only going to turn out as good as your pesto. If you use store-bought or jarred pesto that’s been sitting on the shelves for months, this recipe is only going to disappoint you. Fresh homemade pesto will transform this dish into an authentic-feeling Italian dinner that’s exploding with flavor and color.

Looking for more delicious pesto recipes? Try my homemade pasta with pesto, chicken pesto pasta, pesto shrimp gnocchi, and my grilled pesto shrimp skewers! If you’re looking for a low-carb variation, try my pesto zucchini noodles!

Ingredients

Pesto shrimp pasta ingredients on a cutting board.
  • Spaghetti or linguine: this is a matter of preference. This recipe works best with stringing pasta as opposed to tubular pasta.
  • Large shrimp: peeled, deveined, and tails removed: removing the tails is optional, but it makes the eating experience that much better. Always remove the peel before cooking if intact.
  • Basil pesto: I cannot stress enough the importance of making homemade pesto from scratch! Save leftover pesto for smashed pesto potatoes or sweet potato breakfast boats.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes: this is optional but adds flavor and very mild heat.
  • Grated parmesan cheese: I always opt for freshly grated parmesan over pre-grated. It tastes better and it’s much fresher.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities below.

How to Make Pesto Shrimp Pasta

This recipe process is not that far off from making shrimp scampi. Fully cook shrimp in a large saucepan, add to cooked pasta of your choice, and stir in 3/4 to 1 cup of basil pesto. Simple and delicious Italian cooking with real ingredients!

Step 1.

Combine all pesto ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend/pulse until mixed and smooth.

Step 2.

With the motor running, add olive oil in a slow stream until combined. Pesto should not be too soupy or fine. Set aside. Can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge in a tightly sealed container. Cover with plastic wrap seated directly on top of the surface to prevent browning/air exposure.

Homemade basil pesto.

Step 3.

Remove tails from the shrimp by pulling the tail off the base of the shrimp. Set aside.

Step 4.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti al dente, strain, and set aside.

Adding pasta to boiling water.

Step 5.

Meanwhile, heat oil over medium heat in a large pan or skillet. Add garlic, optional red pepper flakes, and shrimp. Season shrimp all over with salt and pepper. Cook until shrimp are no longer translucent and fully cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.

Step 6.

Once the shrimp are fully cooked, add the pasta to the saucepan and toss to mix in the juices. Stir in 3/4 – 1 cup of pesto until pasta is greenish and fully coated. Add more pesto as needed to cover. You may need to drizzle the pasta with extra olive oil to help spread the pesto. Serve immediately topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Pesto shrimp pasta in a cast iron skillet.

Tips for Making Homemade Basil Pesto

Homemade pesto is easy to make and is so much better than store-bought. My basil pesto consists of fresh basil, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper. Everything is blended to render a smooth, yet slightly granular sauce. It only takes about 5 minutes to make so let’s dive in.

  • Pesto is best made in a food processor, however, I’ve been making it in a single-serve smoothie blender for a long time. The key is to pulse the blender to not over blend the pesto and turn it into slime. Shake the contents to help mix as needed.
  • Pesto should be thick and slightly granular in appearance. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil to help thin it out a bit. Pesto can be adjusted in a bowl by simply stirring in extra olive oil.
  • Always use extra virgin olive oil and fresh ingredients. Do not substitute canola or vegetable oil.
  • Do not use dried basil! Always use fresh basil leaves.
  • If your pesto is too thin or runny and you’ve run out of fresh basil, you can add some baby spinach. You can also stir in a little cornstarch. This will help to thicken the sauce without adding any flavor. I would merely consider this a last resort but it works in a pinch.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust pesto with additional salt afterward. The salt helps to bring out the flavor and makes the pesto pop.
  • Fresh garlic is best, but you can substitute garlic powder.
  • Walnuts can be substituted for pine nuts. I prefer pine nuts, but walnuts work in a pinch. You can usually find pine nuts in the baking aisle with the other nuts. Omit for nut-free pesto!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is making homemade pesto worth it?

Homemade pesto is leaps and bounds above jarred pesto. It’s much fresher and so much more flavorful. Once you make your own pesto you will never buy it again.

I don’t have a food processor

You can make pesto in a blender or single-serve smoothie blender or Ninja! I’ve done this numerous times with success.

What can I substitute for pine nuts?

If you don’t have pine nuts, you can use 4-5 walnuts in place or simply leave them out for nut-free pesto.

More Pesto Recipes

Enjoy this recipe? If you made this recipe, please leave a ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ star rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments!
5 from 1 vote

Shrimp Pesto Pasta Recipe

Servings: 4
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Easy pesto shrimp pasta made with fresh homemade basil pesto and shrimp sauteed in garlic and olive oil.

Ingredients 

  • 8 ounces spaghetti or linguine
  • 1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
  • ¾ – 1 cup basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • Grated parmesan cheese, to taste
  • Extra olive oil, if pesto is too thick
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Basil pesto

  • 3 loosely packed cups of basil leaves, about 2.5 ounces
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions 

For the pesto

  • Combine all pesto ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend/pulse until mixed and smooth. See note below if you don’t have a food processor.
  • With the motor running, add olive oil in a slow stream until combined. Pesto should not be too soupy or fine. Set aside. Can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge in a tightly sealed container. Cover with plastic wrap seated directly on top of the surface to prevent browning/air exposure.

For the shrimp pasta

  • Remove tails from the shrimp by pulling the tail off the base of the shrimp. Set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti al dente, strain, and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat oil over medium heat in a large pan or skillet. Add garlic, optional red pepper flakes, and shrimp. Season shrimp all over with salt and pepper. Cook until shrimp is no longer translucent and fully cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.
  • Once the shrimp are fully cooked, add the pasta to the saucepan and toss to mix in the juices. Stir in 3/4 – 1 cup of pesto until pasta is greenish and fully coated. Add more pesto as needed to cover. You may need to drizzle the pasta with extra olive oil to help spread the pesto. Serve immediately topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Notes

If pesto is too thick, add a ¼ cup of olive oil so it spreads more easily through the pasta.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a standard blender or single-serve blender instead. Just don’t blend the ingredients too aggressively or it will turn into a creamy paste. If using a single-serve blender, combine all ingredients together and pulse until smooth. Shaking the containing in between blends will help to mix the ingredients if they get “stuck.”

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 503kcalCarbohydrates: 48gProtein: 28.9gFat: 27.8gSaturated Fat: 5.3gCholesterol: 178mgSodium: 545mgFiber: 1.3gSugar: 4.3g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Tried this recipe?Mention @kitchenswagger or tag #kitchenswagger!

About Shawn Williams

My name is Shawn, author behind Kitchen Swagger. I'm a food & drink enthusiast bringing you my own simple and delicious restaurant-inspired recipes.

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4 Comments

  1. This is so good! I made pesto over the summer and froze it so that I can use it all year long! This is a quick and easy supper!

  2. This was so good! I made the pesto the night before, so when it came to making the recipe, it came together very quickly. Will make again!

  3. I just made this last night. I made the pesto with fresh picked basil from our tower garden. Delicious! Next time I’d add some chopped tomatoes, but it was great as is. Thanks