A lovely, lightly creamy shrimp pasta, with the added flavour of pesto and combined with oven-roasted tomatoes and red pepper.
I love this pesto shrimp pasta, as it always satisfies my craving for a creamy pasta, but takes a lighter approach by using only a bit of lighter half and half cream (no heavy cream needed!). It's also combined with extra vegetables, in the form of easy oven-roasted tomatoes and quick roasted red pepper.
This dish is also easy to adjust to all kinds of adaptations! I've listed some great variations below, to make it easier, if time or energy is short, even lighter, if you prefer or completely dairy-free/cream-free if that's what you're feeling.
- Basil Pesto: I love homemade basil pesto, but honestly, it's not always easy to get my hands on large quantities of fresh basil. If you have lots of fresh basil on hand, certainly go ahead and make your own. You could also sub in something like a homemade arugula pesto here. Alternately, a good quality, store-bought basil pesto is a fine option and that's what I've used here.
- Pasta: I tend to prefer a long pasta, such as linguini with this dish, but any type of pasta will work. Use what you have or prefer.
- Shrimp: You can start with either raw or cooked shrimp, but either way, for a quick and easy meal, start with peeled and de-veined shrimp. Take them out of the freezer ahead to thaw or run under cold water to speed the process.
- Half and Half Cream: This is the 10% b.f. cream that is commonly sold/used as coffee cream. I find it the perfect consistency in this dish, providing just enough creaminess, without the extra fat of heavy cream. You can duplicate half and half cream by combining equal parts of whole milk (3.5% b.f.) with heavy (35% b.f) cream. I don't recommend using milk, as the sauce will be quite thin. For a dairy-free alternative, coconut milk is a good option. (You can also skip the creamy altogether, if you like. See the Variations below for how to do that).
- Other Ingredients You Will Need: A fresh bell pepper for roasting (any colour is fine), cherry tomatoes (any colour or a mixture) and garlic, along with some salt and freshly ground pepper, to really make all the flavours shine. Alternately, you can replace the fresh with store-bought sun-dried tomatoes and jarred roasted red peppers, as noted in the Variations below.
- Optional, but recommended ingredients: A splash of wine for deglazing the pan (water will work just fine as an alternative), red pepper flakes, for extra flavour and some extra fresh basil and Parmesan, for garnish is a nice addition, if you have these on hand.
Video: Watch it being made
You can make the roasted tomatoes and red peppers ahead of time and either let stand at room temperature until needed or refrigerate for longer storage.
The oven-roasted tomatoes are wonderfully flavourful tomatoes and well worth the bit of extra time, in my opinion. They are also a great use for excess tomatoes or tomatoes just slightly past their prime, so make extra and store them in the fridge to add to more dishes.
Be sure your red peppers are quite blackened before removing from the oven. That way the skin will just scrape off super easily.
- To make it easier: Skip the oven roasting and replace the tomatoes with store-bought sun-dried tomatoes and the homemade roasted red peppers with jarred, store-bought roasted red peppers.
- To make it faster: Roasting the tomatoes and red peppers really intensifies their flavours, but if time or energy is short, you can skip the oven-roasted tomatoes and red peppers. Simply toss the tomatoes and red pepper (cut in slices) into a hot skillet with a splash of olive oil and stir them around until they blister. Remove to a plate, then continue with the recipe!
- To make it even lighter: Simply reduce the added cream by half and add a splash of hot, pasta-cooking water if needed.
- To make it dairy-free: replace the cream with an equal amount of hot pasta cooking water.
- To make it a little different: Replace the shrimp with cooked chicken, for a change or to use up some leftover chicken!
Creamy Shrimp Pasta with Pesto and Tomatoes
For the roasted vegetables:
- 1 bell pepper
- 1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes (about 20 tomatoes)
For the pasta:
- 6 oz linguini (or other pasta (200g))
- 6 oz shrimp (peeled and deveined, thawed, raw or cooked)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 3 Tbsp white wine (or water)
- 2/3 cup Half and Half cream (*see Notes)
- 1/3 - 1/2 cup basil pesto (store-bought or homemade)
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (chopped)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Freshly grated Parmesan
- Additional fresh basil (for garnish)
- For roasted vegetables: Preheat oven to 425F. Scatter tomatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast in preheated oven until tomatoes have shrivelled, about 15-20 minutes (watch closely, as timing will vary depending on size of the tomatoes. Remove from oven and set aside. Switch oven to broil (High setting, if you have). Cut the sides off of the bell pepper and remove any seeds or white membrane. Place on a baking sheet, skin side up. Place baking sheet on a rack about 6-inches from the heat source and broil until the skin is very dark, about 8 minutes (again, watch closely.) Remove from oven and let stand until cool enough to handle, then use the edge of a sharp knife to remove the skin. Slice the roasted peppers and set aside.
- For the pasta: Start a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute, or until the garlic has softened, but not browned. If using raw shrimp, add to the pan and cook, stirring, until they turn pink, about 3 minutes. (If using cooked shrimp, save the shrimp for later in the process, to avoid over-cooking) De-glaze the pan with the wine or water and let it cook down a minute. Add the cream to the pan. Add the pesto to the pan and stir to combine well. Reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer a few minutes. If pasta is not ready, turn the heat off under the pan and let the sauce sit until just before the pasta is ready,
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling salted water until al dente.
- When pasta is cooked, turn the heat on medium-low under the skillet, if it was off. Add the roasted tomatoes, roasted peppers, cooked and thawed shrimp (if using cooked shrimp) and the fresh basil to the pan. Add the hot pasta to the pan. Carefully stir together (tongs work well here) until well combined and just warmed through.
- Serve warm with some Parmesan and additional fresh basil, if desired.