Shrimp Alfredo is one of those great Italian-American dishes that requires just a few basic ingredients, and a big appetite! And, it doesn't take very long at all to cook (by the time your pasta's done, your meal is done!) In fact, shrimp makes for a perfect addition to any Alfredo dish for the precise reason that it cooks so quickly.
But a few people can still get hung up on it. What comes first, the shrimp or the sauce? And how do you make them both without overcooking your shrimp? They're all good questions, and they all have simple enough answers in the tips below.
1. Start your pasta first
Depending on the type of dry pasta you buy, it takes about 6 to 8 eight minutes from the time it goes into the water from the time you drain. Add time to allow the water to come to a rolling boil before the pasta is added and you have about 20 minutes before that pasta is ready. And your sauce, even with cooking the shrimp, won't need that long. So get your pasta pot ready to go on the stove over high heat before you jump into the sauce.
And it needs to be said any time pasta water is brought up. Salt it, salt it, salt it! Even though it's going to be coated in sauce soon enough, you need to salt it so the pasta takes on some of its own flavor. And this is your only chance to do it.
2. Dry and season your shrimp
Protein of any kind should never be placed into a saute pan wet. And shrimp can be particularly wet when you take them out of the package. If they stay that way, they're not going to brown nicely and they'll steam rather than saute, which just isn't what you're looking for in Alfredo.
Line a baking sheet or plate with paper towels and place your shrimp on top. Using a separate paper towel, pat the shrimp dry and then season them with salt and pepper. After all, the shrimp should have their own flavor apart from the sauce, too.
3. Saute the shrimp in butter
Many people think that Alfredo sauce is all about the cream, but it's actually butter that makes this dish so scrumptious. While you'll be adding butter to the sauce too, you may as well start the dish off right by also sautéing the shrimp in butter. The right ratio is about two tablespoons of butter for every 15 shrimp.
Place a frying pan over medium-high heat and allow it to get hot. Then add your butter and wait for it to melt. Add the shrimp all at once. Cook the shrimp for about 1 to 2 minutes without moving them, just until their undersides are pink. Then flip them over and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, just until the other side is pink as well. Remove the shrimp to a bowl.
4. Start the sauce
Now that your shrimp is cooked and your pasta's cooking, the only thing left to do is make the sauce. And all you really need is butter, garlic, cream, and cheese.
Lower the heat under your frying pan to medium and add about 6 tablespoons of butter. When the butter has just about melted, add three cloves of minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds before adding two cups of heavy cream. Lower the heat so the cream doesn't curdle and let the cream simmer for a few minutes.
5. Add the cheese
Shrimp Alfredo may have just a few ingredients, but every ingredient is essential. One of those essential ingredients is Parmesan cheese, preferably freshly grated rather than the jarred stuff. The cheese will help thicken the sauce and bind it together. After the cream has simmered, whisk the cheese in while the sauce is still over low heat.
6. Add the pasta and the shrimp
Once all your components have been made, it's time to bring them together. Add the shrimp and the drained pasta to the frying pan with the sauce. At this point you'll need to add some freshly cracked blacked pepper, another hallmark of Shrimp Alfredo, but taste the dish before adding more salt. Then just toss everything together and serve!