Pasta is tossed with garlicky shrimp and stunning lemon pesto made with basil, arugula, walnuts, garlic, olive oil and lemon zest. This dinner is easy to make but has so many layers of flavor!
This is a surprisingly easy but really impressive recipe. If you like regular basil pesto, then you're also going to love this arugula pesto with bright hints of lemon from freshly grated lemon zest.
Once the pasta is tossed with the pesto, the shrimp is quickly pan-seared with olive and garlic, and voila! Dinner is ready.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Shrimp adds flavor and protein to the pasta, but you can also make this pasta without any shrimp added, just pesto and pasta!
Basil: This fresh herb is crucial to the pesto. Here are some tips on the best ways to store basil.
Arugula: Arugula is also called "rocket" or "Italian Cress." If you'd like an arugula substitute that has a similar peppery flavor, watercress is a good choice. The arugula is really good in this pesto, but it's okay to just use basil. Or, if you'd like to add extra greens to your pesto, try Spinach Pesto with basil.
Walnuts: Walnuts have an earthy flavor that pairs well with arugula. But you can substitute more traditional pine nuts for the walnuts, or use a tablespoon of sunflower seeds to make nut-free pesto. You can also try my recipe for Almond Pesto.
Parmesan: Grate your own parmesan for this recipe, or you can substitute slightly less expensive Grana Padano.
Lemon: Start by adding the zest from half a lemon, then add more to taste. Zest adds lemon flavor, but isn't as tart or overpowering as lemon juice. The easiest way to zest a lemon is to use a microplane grater.
Linguine: You can use any pasta shape for this recipe, although long noodles go especially well with shrimp.
How to Make Pasta with Lemon Basil Pesto
Step 1: In a food processor, blend the garlic, walnuts, cheese and olive oil until the walnuts are very finely chopped and the texture is fairly smooth. Add the arugula and basil. Process until the pesto has a texture you like. Add lemon zest and salt and pulse a few times.
Step 2: Cook the pasta in salted water. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water before draining the pasta. Immediately toss the warm pasta with the pesto, drizzling in some of the reserved pasta water to help the pesto blend in and coat the pasta.
Step 3: Saute the shrimp in garlic and olive oil over medium heat. Cook the shrimp in 2 batches, which creates less moisture in the pan.
Step 4: Toss the shrimp with the pasta. Add more lemon zest and salt to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Pasta water is starchy and helps the pesto coat the noodles evenly. Right before draining the pasta, scoop out ½ cup of the water. While tossing the pasta with pesto, drizzle in a little bit of the reserved water to thin out the pesto and help it coat the noodles.
- For the best shrimp texture, pat the shrimp dry before cooking. Don't crowd the pan, which produces moisture and steam and prevents the shrimp from browning. Most importantly, don't overcook the shrimp. It doesn't need to be in a hot skillet for much more than 3 minutes.
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More Shrimp Recipes
Garlic Shrimp Pasta with Arugula Lemon Pesto Recipe
Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta with Basil Arugula Pesto sounds like a fancy dinner, but it's actually a quick and easy meal.
If you're using frozen shrimp for this recipe, remember to put the shrimp in the refrigerator the night before to defrost. If absolutely necessary, you can defrost shrimp using a faster method by placing a bag of frozen shrimp in a large bowl of cold water for about 20 minutes.
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: pasta
- Method: boil and saute
- Cuisine: Italian
Arugula Walnut Pesto
- 1 garlic clove
- ½ cup walnut halves and pieces
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese (or Grana Padano)
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 cups (or 1 to 2 small handfuls) arugula
- 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
- Zest from a small lemon (use a microplane grater to zest the lemon)
- Salt, to taste
Garlic Shrimp Pasta
- ¾ pound/12 ounces linguine (or your favorite pasta)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, patted dry with a paper towel
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
- In a food processor, blend the garlic, walnuts, cheese and olive oil until the walnuts are very finely chopped and the texture of the mixture is fairly smooth.
- Add the arugula and basil. Process until the pesto is fairly smooth. If it seems too thick, add more olive oil.
- Zest the lemon over the pesto, then pulse a few times to blend the lemon zest in. Add salt to taste.
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Before draining the pasta, scoop out ½ cup of the pasta water and set it aside.
- In a large serving bowl, use tongs to toss the pasta with the pesto. Drizzle in a little bit of the reserved pasta water to help loosen the pesto and coat the pasta. You probably will use about ¼ cup or so of the reserved water.
- Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat.
- Add the garlic and cook only about 20 seconds.
- Add half of the shrimp. Cook for 2 minutes, shaking the pan a few times. Flip the shrimp over and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, until pink.
- Transfer the shrimp to the pasta bowl, then add the remaining shrimp to the skillet. Cook for 2 minutes, shaking the pan a few times. Flip the shrimp over and cook 1 minute more, until pink. Add to the pasta.
- Toss the pasta with the shrimp.
- Add more salt and/or lemon zest to taste.
- Serve warm, or at room temperature.
Why ¾ pound pasta? If you use a full pound of pasta, you might find that there isn't quite enough pesto and shrimp to balance out the amount of pasta.
Patting shrimp dry with a paper towel before cooking the shrimp helps the shrimp saute faster and better because there isn't as much moisture in the skillet.
You can serve the shrimp with or without tails, whatever you prefer.
Keywords: lemon pesto shrimp pasta, lemon pesto pasta, shrimp arugula pasta, garlic basil shrimp pasta