Shrimp Alfredo is a practical weeknight meal masquerading as fancy restaurant fare. Grocery stores are in on it too, sending the message that you need a bottled sauce to make this dish a success at home. But what you really need are just a few ingredients from your pantry, fridge, and freezer. 

The key to serving restaurant-quality shrimp Alfredo is making sure all elements of the dish — the pasta, Alfredo sauce, and shrimp — finish cooking at the same time. Thankfully, no part of the dish is difficult to make; all that’s required is a bit of planning. This is how to make the most delicious homemade shrimp Alfredo with fettuccine any night of the week.

The Path to Perfect Shrimp Alfredo

Boiling the water for fettuccine is the most time-consuming part of shrimp Alfredo, so step away from the crustaceans and bring a large pot of water to a boil first. While the water heats, dry and season the shrimp, measure the ingredients for the Alfredo sauce, and have them standing by. Add the fettuccine to the boiling water, then turn your attention to the shrimp, and finish with the Alfredo sauce.

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The Best Way to Choose and Cook Shrimp

Unless you live by the sea, your best bet for high-quality shrimp is found in the freezer aisle. There’s no set standard for labeling shrimp by size (one brand’s medium is another’s large), so look for a range of numbers on the package that indicate the number of shrimp per pound. The more shrimp per pound, the smaller the shrimp. For shrimp Alfredo, we’re looking for shrimp tangled within every swirl of fettuccine. Look for 17 to 21 shrimp per pound — they may be labeled either medium or large. Restaurants love to serve shrimp with tails on, even when served atop fettuccine Alfredo, but I find it awkward to disentangle the shrimp and discard the shells. Instead, choose raw frozen shrimp that’s already peeled and deveined.

Skillet-seared shrimp is the fastest way to put this creamy pasta dish on the table. Use a large, wide-bottomed skillet to fit all of the shrimp in a single layer. Look for the shrimp to curl and turn from a silvery-gray hue to opaque and pink. Pile the shrimp onto a plate, and use the same skillet to make the Alfredo sauce.

Finishing and Serving Shrimp Alfredo Pasta

Classic Alfredo sauce is a balanced emulsion of grated Parmesan, butter, and starchy pasta water, but on weeknights I need a foolproof method for my favorite pasta sauce. Heavy cream gives the sauce its velvety smoothness; you can substitute half-and-half in a pinch, but the sauce won’t have the same body. Whisk handfuls of grated Parmesan into garlic-infused butter and cream, then toss with just-drained al dente fettuccine and seared shrimp. I bring the skillet to the table and serve straight from the pan.

Read more: How To Make the Best, Easiest Homemade Alfredo Sauce

Shrimp Alfredo

Ingredients

For the shrimp and pasta:

  • 12 ounces

    dried fettuccine pasta

  • 1 pound

    (17 to 21 per pound) peeled and devined raw shrimp, thawed if frozen

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon

    unsalted butter

For the sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 2 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1 1/2 cups

    heavy cream or half-and-half

  • 2 cups

    freshly grated Parmesan cheese (2 1/2 ounces)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves, for serving

Equipment

Measuring cups and spoons

Knife and cutting board

Large pot

Colander

Paper towels

Plate

Large stainless steel skillet

Whisk

Microplane or fine cheese grater

Wooden spoon

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fettuccine and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta, but do not rinse.

  2. Cook the shrimp. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and season with the salt and pepper. Melt the 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then swirl the pan to coat the bottom with the butter. Add the shrimp in an even layer and cook, until pink and opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the shrimp to a plate, but do not clean the skillet.

  3. Make the Alfredo sauce. Melt the 4 tablespoons butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Whisk in the heavy cream or half-and-half until combined and simmering, 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in the Parmesan cheese, salt, nutmeg, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Cook, whisking occasionally, until the sauce thickens to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes.

  4. Toss the drained pasta in sauce and top with shrimp. Add the drained pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Return the shrimp to the pan and toss to combine. Serve garnished with parsley.

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