A favorite pasta dish, now a risotto.
Shrimp scampi is the ultimate easy, crowd-pleasing pasta. But a shrimp scampi risotto recipe? Quite possibly even better. Shrimp scampi risotto takes all the flavor and ingredients of shrimp scampi, and swaps creamy arborio rice for the pasta. The result is a satisfying and easy dinner made from little more than shrimp, garlic, white wine, and butter that everyone will love.
What Is Shrimp Scampi?
Shrimp scampi is one of those classic Italian-American dishes that tastes great in spite of, or probably because of, its simplicity. Though open for interpretation, shrimp scampi usually hews to a combination of fresh shrimp, garlic, white wine, butter, lemon, and parsley, often served as a pasta.
Fun food history fact: “Scampi” is the Italian word for langoustines, small crustaceans. Home cooks in the old country used scampi to cook a similar dish. But immigrant Italians substituted shrimp once in America because they were more widely available. So the name really translates to something like “shrimp shrimp.”
You’ll also like: Classic Italian Meatballs and New England Fish Chowder
Why This Shrimp Scampi Risotto Recipe Works
Shrimp scampi risotto is a natural extension of shrimp scampi pasta. The ingredients are essentially the same but for subbing creamy arborio rice for the pasta. Risotto may seem intimidating. It is not. Risotto is the ultimate dump-and-stir, one-pan dinner.
Short-grain arborio rice has a lot of natural starch, which creates a creamy texture without having to add any actual cream. White wine and garlic are added to the rice first. The wine gets absorbed into the rice, creating a bright, acidic flavor base. Several additions of water follow, until the rice is creamy and al dente soft. Folded with shrimp, butter, and a little lemon and parsley, shrimp scampi risotto will be a new favorite.
Staying true to the general Italian 11th Commandment — Thou Shalt Not Put Cheese on a Seafood Dish — this recipe does use any cheese, unlike many risotto dishes. You will not need it.
Also, I always look for wild American gulf shrimp, instead of Thai farmed shrimp. Farmed shrimp from Thailand is more common and less expensive, but carries serious issues of slave labor and irresponsible, unsustainable fishing practices. Check the labels.
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Shrimp Scampi-Style Risotto
- 1 pound raw wild gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined (tail-on is good)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- 3/4 cup white wine (not cooking wine)
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 3 1/2 cups (or so) hot water
- 1/2 cup chopped, loosely-packed Italian flat-leaf parsley, plus more to garnish
- 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
- 12 turns freshly-cracked black pepper
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges for serving
- Heat a wide-bottomed skillet over medium heat, coating with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, or enough to fully coat the surface. Add the shrimp and a pinch of salt and pepper. Do not stir at first. You want to brown the shrimp on one side. When the shrimp has browned lightly on one side and begins to turn pink, stir and cook another minute more, until the shrimp is just pink but not fully cooked. Remove from heat and let drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
- Add another tablespoon or two of olive oil to the skillet. Add the rice and stir until the rice becomes coated in the oil and turns translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, garlic, and 1 3/4 teaspoons of salt. Stir until the liquid mostly evaporates.
- Add water one cup at a time, stirring frequently between additions. Add the next cup of water when the previous liquid is almost evaporated.
- After the last addition of water, add the shrimp back to the pan and cook, stirring. Add the butter, pepper, and parsley. Stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. The rice should be al dente and creamy.PRO TIP: The texture should be a bit loose. Rather that sit upright in lump form on a plate, the risotto should hold together, but spread slightly in a bowl. If the risotto is not there, add a bit more water and stir vigorously.
- Spoon into pasta bowls and garnish with parsley and a wedge of lemon. Serve immediately.