Spring Shrimp Scampi with Peas and Mint

Shrimp are magical in a dish like this one. They’re pretty and curvy and juicy. Toss them with spaghetti, a little ricotta, peas, lemon, and mint, and you have a scampi-style pasta that’s perfect for spring.

Look for large or jumbo frozen shrimp

I call the plump shrimp in this dish scampi because they’re the largest ones in the market – sometimes labeled “large” or “jumbo,” or with a number like “16/20” (which means 16 to 20 pieces in a pound). If shrimp is the main protein in the pasta, you want big pieces so they stand out.

In New England, where I live, most shrimp are raised elsewhere and flown in frozen. If like me, you don’t have access to fresh shrimp, go to the freezer section of the market and find a bag of frozen shrimp. This is often the better and fresher choice than the “previously frozen” shrimp that the market has thawed and put on display in the seafood case.

Another point in favor of shrimp from the frozen section: they are usually frozen individually so you can pour out what you want for a dish, defrost them yourself, and stick what you don’t need back in the freezer for another meal.

Bags of frozen shrimp are also typically cheaper per pound than the shrimp in the fish case.


Here, the shrimp are sautéed quickly with crushed red pepper, then tipped into a pot of cooked spaghetti. Once the pasta and shrimp are tossed together, the rest of the meal takes minutes: just add peas, herbs, and some ricotta, and stir until everything is warmed through.

This makes this an ideal dish for nights when you don’t have a whole lot of time to cook. Let the shrimp work their magic, nestled with peas on strands of lemon- and mint-scented spaghetti.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound thin spaghetti
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups (8 ounces) frozen peas, rinsed with cold water to defrost
  • 2 tablespoons whole fresh mint leaves

1 Cook the spaghetti: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and the spaghetti. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender but still has some bite.

Scoop out 1 1/2 cups of starchy pasta cooking water with a heatproof measuring cup. Drain the spaghetti and, without rinsing, return it to the pan. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil; toss well and set aside. Reserve the remaining pasta cooking water.

2 Cook the shrimp: In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. When it is hot, add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the shrimp, black pepper, and crushed red pepper.

Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, or until the shrimp start to turn bright pink; they will not be fully cooked at this point. Scoop out and remove the garlic. Tip the shrimp and chili flakes into the pot with the pasta.

3 Finish the dish: Set the pot of pasta over low heat. Add the ricotta, parsley, lemon zest, and 1/2 cup of the remaining pasta cooking liquid.

Cook, stirring gently, until the liquid heats up and the shrimp are pink and cooked all the way through. Add more of the reserved pasta water if the mixture seems dry. Add the peas and mint and toss gently until the peas are hot.

4 Serve: Divide among 4 shallow bowls and serve.

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