Shrimp pesto pasta is a restaurant-quality homemade meal ready in just 30 minutes. This simple and quick Italian-inspired dinner is made with homemade basil pesto or store-bought pesto and is sure to become a family favorite. The shrimp is super flavorful thanks to smoked paprika, garlic, and lemon juice. Top the pasta with toasted pine nuts.
30-minute shrimp pesto pasta made with fresh ingredients
My family can't get enough of this delicious, vibrant, and colorful Italian-style pasta! You can't go wrong with the best homemade basil pesto, shrimp seared with smoked paprika and minced garlic, and a handful of toasted pine nuts thrown in for a good measure! There is no cream and no half-and-half. While this restaurant-worthy main course looks fancy and sophisticated on a plate, shrimp pesto pasta comes together fast, in only 30 minutes. Make it on busy weekdays for a simple weeknight meal or serve it when entertaining to impress your guests. This recipe is easy to double or triple - perfect for serving the crowd! Like shrimp pasta? Don't miss my refreshing Shrimp Tomato Spinach Pasta in Garlic Butter Sauce or my reader-favorite Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta.
How to make basil pesto from scratch
Here is a simple recipe for my favorite version of homemade basil pesto. This amount of ingredients makes about 1 cup or 1.5 cups of basil pesto.
The ingredients for basil pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- ½ cup pine nuts toasted
- 4 garlic cloves
- ½ cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, freshly shredded
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- salt and pepper to taste
The directions for making basil pesto
- Place all ingredients (except salt and pepper) in the food processor and blend for about 5 minutes or 10 minutes until you get the pesto-like sauce.
- You might have to work in batches.
- If low on basil, you can add spinach, arugula, or parsley.
- Add salt to taste.
Ingredients you need for shrimp pesto pasta
- Shrimp. I used large raw shrimp (peeled and deveined) - it works best in this recipe. Make sure to space out the shrimp in the skillet when searing. This will ensure that shrimp actually gets seared and not steamed. Also, watch the cooking times closely not to overcook the shrimp.
- Pasta. You can use any type of pasta you like: spaghetti, fettuccine, angel hair, or bucatini. You can also use short pasta, such as fusilli, farfalle (bow-tie pasta), or penne. I used pappardelle here because that's what I had available. Cook the pasta al dente for the best texture.
- Basil pesto. You can make your own or use your favorite brand. When buying pesto at the grocery store, I usually buy the refrigerated pesto, Buitoni brand. I also love the refrigerated basil pesto sold at Whole Foods.
- Pine nuts add amazing flavor to the pasta. I recommend briefly toasting them in the preheated oven at 350 F for just 5 minutes until lightly browned. They taste so much better when toasted! But watch them carefully, as these nuts can burn quickly.
- Garlic is cooked together with shrimp and it adds a lot of flavor to shrimp pesto pasta.
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice is added to the pasta for a pop of flavor.
- Seasonings include smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.
The overview of the recipe instructions
The detailed list of the ingredients, the amounts, and detailed recipe directions are provided in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. This is a quick overview of the recipe:
- Make basil pesto from scratch or use a store-bought version.
- Cook the pasta in boiling water according to package instructions. That usually means 8 or 15 minutes. Drain. While the pasta cooks, proceed with the recipe.
- Prepare the shrimp by seasoning it with smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. This recipe uses 1 lb raw shrimp (peeled and deveined) which usually equates to 16 or 20 count.
- Sear the shrimp with olive oil and minced garlic on medium-high heat for 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Make sure the shrimp are not overcrowded to avoid steaming. You might have to work in batches. When the shrimp is done, remove it to a plate.
- Add basil pesto to the same, now empty, pan you used to sear shrimp. Add cooked and drained pasta. Squeeze lemon juice over the pasta. Toss and reheat gently.
- Add cooked shrimp back to the skillet with pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Top with toasted pine nuts for a beautiful presentation.
Variations and substitutions
- Use other types of seafood, such as scallops, lobster meat, crab meat, or salmon.
- Add other protein, such as cooked skinless and boneless chicken breast, leftover cooked chicken, or rotisserie chicken. Just throw it together with the pasta, heat it through, and serve!
- Add veggies. Cherry or grape tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, arugula, asparagus, and bell peppers, just to name a few.
- Add cheese. You can sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano cheese on top of the shrimp pesto pasta.
- Add heat by sprinkling a few red pepper flakes over the pasta.
Storage and reheating tips
Because the sauce is made only with basil pesto, with no cream, this shrimp pesto pasta is very easy to store and reheat. You can also easily make this ahead.
- Fridge. Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freezer. Freeze it in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
- Reheat in the microwave oven. Reheat the refrigerated pesto shrimp pasta in a microwave oven for about 1 minute. Taste and reheat for 30 seconds more, if needed.
- Reheat on the stovetop. Reheat this dish in a large, high-sided skillet on the stovetop on low-medium heat. When using this method, add a small amount of basil pesto when reheating, to refresh the sauce and to prevent shrimp and pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
What to serve with shrimp pesto pasta
Serve pesto shrimp pasta with a slice of warm Italian bread, garlic bread, or olive bread loaf. And serve a fresh salad, too. I would suggest a basic spinach or arugula salad, sprinkled with toasted nuts (pecans or pine nuts), a small amount of shredded Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese, and dressed with your favorite salad dressing! Or, take a look at my salad recommendations here:
- Tomato Cucumber Avocado Salad with Mozzarella and Basil Pesto
- Mediterranean Chickpea Salad with Avocado, Tomato, and Cucumber
- Greek Tortellini Salad with Tomatoes, Avocados, Cucumbers
Other dinner recipes with basil pesto
Basil pesto works well with so many ingredients, such as pasta and all kinds of protein, including shrimp, chicken, or salmon. It is such a great ingredient for easy-to-make weeknight dinners. Here are some of my favorites:
- Sautéed Shrimp with Mushrooms and Pesto
- Basil Pesto Shrimp Mushroom Pasta
- Chicken Ravioli Skillet with Basil Pesto and Veggies
- Basil Pesto Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Bake
- One-Pan Pesto Chicken and Veggies (Cherry Tomatoes and Asparagus)
30-Minute Shrimp Pesto Pasta
- 8 oz pasta pappardelle, fettuccine, spaghetti, etc
- 1 lb raw shrimp peeled and deveined large (16 or 20 count per 1 pound of shrimp)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- ⅓ cup basil pesto
- ⅓ cup pine nuts toasted (optional)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions (usually about 10 or 12 minutes). Drain.
- Proceed with the recipe while the pasta is cooking.
Cook the shrimp
- This recipe uses 1 lb of large raw shrimp (peeled and deveined) which usually means 16 or 20 count. Season the shrimp with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Add shrimp and minced garlic and cook for about 3 minutes on each side until it's cooked through but not overcooked.
- Make sure the shrimp are not overcrowded to avoid steaming. You might have to work in batches. Remove from heat. Remove shrimp to a plate.
- Add cooked and drained pasta and basil pesto, to the same, now empty, skillet that you used to sear shrimp. Stir gently and bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes to coat pasta with sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add freshly squeezed lemon juice (add just 1 tablespoon first, taste, and then add more if needed).
- Add seared shrimp.
- Top with toasted pine nuts (optional).
- Season with extra salt and pepper or add crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.
- Add extra toppings, such as lightly toasted pine nuts, freshly grated Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano cheese, fresh basil, and other fresh herbs.
- Toasted pine nuts. Toast them lightly in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 5 minutes or just a couple of minutes more. Watch carefully as these expensive nuts burn quickly!
- Store-bought basil pesto. When buying pesto at the grocery store, I usually buy the refrigerated pesto, Buitoni brand. I also love the refrigerated basil pesto sold at Whole Foods.
- Make basil pesto from scratch. Even though the store-bought pesto works really well in pasta recipes, I have an easy and delicious recipe for the best homemade basil pesto made from scratch. Just scroll up above the recipe card and you will find it! Or here is a really detailed recipe for how to make basil pesto from scratch.
- Adjust the amount of basil pesto. This recipe uses ⅓ cup of pesto. Feel free to add extra tablespoons of pesto to your taste.
- Add veggies. I recommend cherry tomatoes, spinach, arugula, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, or mushrooms.
- Add red pepper flakes to add heat.
- Adjust seasonings. Even though the basil pesto tends to be salty, do taste the final dish before serving and season it with extra salt and pepper, if needed.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.