Shrimp and spaghetti are a dinner staple in my southern kitchen, especially this time of year. The sauce in my version of this comforting classic has a welcome freshness after the heavier comfort foods of winter, to which shrimp are the perfect complement.
I never received a hand written recipe for shrimp and spaghetti. We told me how to do it in great detail, and then wrote down what I remembered. While I had a better memory at the time and probably wrote down the instructions pretty well, I wasn’t given exact amounts for any of the ingredients.
Over the years, I developed an idea of the amount of this and the amount of it that goes into this dish. The truth, however, is that my recipe can handle some improvisations. As long as you stick to the basic bones, you can use what you have on hand in terms of tomatoes and tomato sauce.
Related: Travel South to the “Seafood Capital of Alabama” With These Delicious and Punchy Marinated Shrimp
This recipe for shrimp and spaghetti brings me back to the point in my life where I started to branch out and try new cuisines like Indian and Thai cuisine and sushi. Until then, I ate mostly what I grew up eating.
The excitement of learning to cook things that I doesn’t growing up made me more confident eating in the kitchen, and I wanted to share my newfound passion with everyone. Before long, Sunday brunches and the occasional dinner party for family and friends had become a thing in my home. In fact, I served this shrimp and spaghetti when I hosted my first date, with Chianti in these little basket-wrapped bottles.
Want more food writing and recipes? Subscribe to the Home and kitchen tool Food newsletter.
I’m not saying I ever thought of shrimp as exotic or even something different from the norm. I’m from the South, so I grew up with shrimp and seafood at home. But we don’t have to have shrimp at my house like them to have shrimp on the Bayou. Don’t get me wrong: My mom rocked a shrimp boil, but she never would have dreamed of putting shrimp in spaghetti.
You won’t need anything more than a simple green salad and some crusty bread for this meal to be complete. Whatever side you serve, I promise you’ll love my shrimp and spaghetti.
Tomatoes and tomato sauce
I was told to use 2 cans tomato sauce and 1 can of tomatoes. There are so many to choose from tomato sauces in grocery stores today – simply choose what you like. My last batch of shrimp and spaghetti, I added a jar of fancy pizza – it was delicious. I also had on hand some magnificent greenhouse tomatoes, so I’ve also included. The most important thing is to stick to the same 2: 1 ratio of tomato sauce.
Use small wild shrimp to medium, peeled and deveined. The only dance you need to master for this recipe is knowing when to add your spaghetti and shrimp to the sauce.
It varies so much from person to person as when the shrimp is perfectly cooked. The truth is that the shrimp will continue to cook for quite a bit even after removing this dish from the heat. Do not be afraid. Simply taste the shrimp once you think it’s done and turn off the heat when you’re satisfied.
Another thing I learned from my time in Bayou La Batre is to soak your peeled and deveined shrimp in milk while you chop and prep everything for this dish (or any shrimp dish, for that matter ). Let them soak for about an hour, if possible. The milk removes any “funky” taste from the shrimp.
Feel free to use whatever type of spaghetti you prefer, whether that’s traditional or gluten-free or grain-free. But for the spaghetti only a thicker linguine or a thinner angel hair pasta arrive. You want the noodles to absorb the flavor of the sauce and still hold up.
Cook your spaghetti just to al dente because the pasta cooks a little more once you add it to the sauce. Finally, briefly rinse your cooked noodles. You do not want to cool the sauce too when combined.
As with many shrimp dishes, celery is important in this recipe. Although well cooked without any noticeable crunch, it adds a bright extra layer of flavor to an otherwise more typical red sauce.
Use a sharp knife as you chop celery to prevent “strings”. With a little caution, you can prevent this happening.
Most times, I have fresh herbs in my kitchen. I reach them, but it does not matter if you use dried. I generally use more than what is asked (as I do with garlic). Use as many as you like. (Remember: you can always add more, but you can not escape.)
Recipe: Gulf Coast Shrimp and Spaghetti
- 1 large bell pepper (any color), seeded and chopped
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 1-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 cans of tomato sauce
- 1 can of tomatoes
- 1-2 teaspoons of sugar
- 2 pounds of wild shrimp small to medium, peeled and deveined
- 1 pound of spaghetti
- Fresh basilic
- fresh parsley
- Olive oil (or oil of your choice) for sautéing the onions, peppers and celery
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: parmesan and red pepper flakes
Sauté the onions in 1-2 tablespoons of oil over low heat until very soft and almost translucent. Add the bell pepper and celery and continue cooking until tender and the onions are lightly browned.
Add the cans of tomato sauce and the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of sugar, the minced garlic and some herbs.
Simmer very gently for 30 minutes.*
*If you’re also cooking on a gas stove, you may need to turn off the heat for a few minutes here and there to avoid burning your sauce while it simmers. (It’s ideal to let your sauce cook long and slow so the flavors have time to marry.)
Adjust seasonings (herbs and sugar), plus salt and pepper to taste.
While the sauce simmers, cook the spaghetti (according to package directions), aside briefly, rinse and set.
In a colander, rinse the shrimp and set aside.
Add the spaghetti and prawns to the sauce. Cook very low until the shrimp are cooked.
To serve, add a sprinkle of heavy parmesan, a few red pepper flakes for heat, and a drizzle of the best olive oil you have.
Start with a teaspoon of sugar. If your sauce is too acidic/sour, add a little more. I’ve never had to add more than 2 teaspoons of sugar, but adjust to taste if needed.
The general rule for serving shrimp is 1/2 pound per person, but that rule really doesn’t apply here. It’s a hearty dish – you can easily serve 6 people with 2 pounds of shrimp.
If using fresh herbs, save some to add after serving.
More recipes from Bibi’s southern cuisine to try:
Food writing lounge on things we think you’ll like. Home and kitchen tool has affiliate partnerships, so we may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.