There are endless ways to make a sauce for pasta and we love the way the flavors in this one come together. The combination of garlic, lemon, prosciutto, and spinach make this dish irresistible, and the sauce is perfect with some white wine sautéed shrimp mixed in! This is truly a showstopper recipe that will make your taste buds dance! Make this recipe for Shrimp Orecchiette with Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce for the whole family, or for your special someone on date night.
Why choose Orecchiette for this dish?
Orecchiette is a small, round and somewhat flat pasta shape that originates in the Puglia (Apulia) region of southern Italy. The name translates to ‘small ears’ because they do resemble little ears when made correctly. The dough for this pasta is generally an eggless pasta dough with only two ingredients: flour (usually durum wheat, or semolina) and water.
We generally prefer to make our own orecchiette from scratch using our Eggless Pasta dough, but you can always substitute store-bought orecchiette to save some time. You can find our version of this pasta dough in our cookbook, Mangiamo.
You can, of course, use any pasta shape you want and this dish will still be delicious! From angel hair pasta to penne, you really can't go wrong here! Don't forget to checkout our Homemade Pasta recipes if you love pasta from scratch!
Cultural Corner - Pasta Grannies of Bari
If you decide to visit Italy, we highly recommend going to the city of Bari in the southern part of Italy. This city is becoming more and more popular, but is still not on most people’s radars. It is a port town with an old castle right in the middle of the city and beautiful views of the Adriatic sea. The part of the city referred to as Barivecchia, or ‘old Bari,’ has narrow maze-like streets running through it with little restaurants and shops.
The pasta grannies in Bari will sit outside in these streets most mornings making pasta by hand to sell. They primarily make orecchiette and cavatelli (another regional pasta shape), which are two of our favorite pasta shapes! It is worth a visit if you are planning a trip to Italy!
Garlic Lemon Cream Sauce
This creamy sauce has a few steps, but it really isn’t difficult or too labor intensive.
To give the sauce body, we chose to add a small amount of roux to thicken the sauce to a consistency that we were after. It absolutely adds something special to the texture of the sauce without changing the flavor, so don’t fear this unorthodox approach!
As far as flavors, the lemon and garlic are the stars, but neither is so forward that they overwhelm the dish. A little splash of fresh lemon juice on your own plate is a great addition at the end to brighten up the pasta and bring out the lemon flavors. We use both the lemon zest and lemon juice in this recipe to really bring out that lemon flavor. The bright flavors of this cream sauce will leave you licking the bowl!
White Wine Sautéed Shrimp
The shrimp are very simply prepared on their own and added to the sauce. Cooking the shrimp in the sauce creates too much seafood flavor in the sauce and the many subtle elements will be overpowered, so sautéing them with a splash of white wine in a separate pan is best here. Once the shrimp are cooked, we add them into the finished sauce with the cooked pasta and stir to combine before serving.
We chose large shrimp for this dish, but you can't go wrong with whichever size you desire.
We love shrimp and you really can’t go wrong with sautéed fresh shrimp seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked in white wine!
Adding Texture to this Pasta Dish
The prosciutto adds some depth to the sauce with the perfect amount of saltiness and texture. We like to briefly crisp up the prosciutto for about 1 minute in a pan before dicing to add to the dish. This is where the added texture comes in.
The spinach added at the end will seem like a lot, but it wilts completely and adds more texture and color to the pasta. Of course, the spinach will give a color contrast to the sauce as well.
What type of wine is best in this recipe?
For this recipe, a dry white wine works best. We chose a wine that not only tastes great in the pasta, but is the perfect pairing to drink with your meal. We used the Riverstone Chardonnay from J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines. This real chardonnay from the California wine country is bright and crisp and the perfect complement to the beautiful flavors in this pasta dish. And the best part is that this wine is very affordable!
We hope that you enjoy this Shrimp Orecchiette with Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce recipe! If you give it a try, leave us a comment below, tap the heart, or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!
Looking for more recipes like this? Check these out:
- Creamy Cacio e Pepe Pasta
- Marsala Mushroom Casarecce Pasta
- Seared Scallop Pasta with Vanilla Grapefruit Cream Sauce
- Fettuccine Alfredo with Mushrooms (No Cream)
Need even more pasta dishes? Read this post: Our Current Favorite Pasta Dishes for Spring and Summer
Shrimp Orecchiette with Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce
- 1 Large pot
- 2 Large frying pans
- 1 Colander
For the Sauce
- 2 slices prosciutto
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small shallot – fine diced
- 8 medium garlic cloves – minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt – divided
- Pinch white pepper
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 -3 oz baby spinach leaves
For the Pasta
- 8 ounces orecchiette pasta
- Large pot of water salted (approximately ¼ cup per quart of water)
For the Shrimp
- 24 raw shrimp large, peeled and deveined
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pinch black pepper
- 2 tablespoon dry white wine
- Lemon wedges
- Fresh Basil
- Red Pepper Flakes optional
Prepare the Sauce
- In a large pan (large enough to hold your finished pasta, sauce and shrimp), cook the prosciutto over medium heat for about 20 seconds per side - just enough to crisp it up. Remove, dice, and set aside.
- Make a roux by adding the butter to the same pan until melted, then add the flour and whisk. Cook for about 3-4 minutes – just until the smell of raw flour has dissipated. The roux should still be very light in color. Remove the roux and set aside.
- Wipe the pan down at this time and return to medium heat. Next, add the olive oil until heated through and glistening, then add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Then, add the garlic for 30 seconds and cook until fragrant. Add a pinch of salt and white pepper and stir. Next, add the wine and deglaze the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until the wine has reduced to a tablespoon or so, approximately 3-5 minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt. Reduce the sauce by half. This will take approximately 10 minutes.
- Add the cream, and lemon juice and stir. Add the reserved roux and whisk to fully incorporate. Over medium heat, bring the sauce to a good simmer for a few minutes and reduce heat to low. Add the reserved prosciutto and the spinach and stir. Taste for seasoning and add a bit of kosher salt if necessary.
Cook the Pasta
- Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package for al dente. Once the cream has been added to the sauce, it is a good time to start the pasta.
Cook the Shrimp
- This simple step can be done while the pasta cooks. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp in a single layer and cook for a few minutes on one side, then flip and continue cooking. Once all the shrimp are flipped, add a splash of white wine and allow the shrimp to finish cooking in the wine. The shrimp should be completely cooked and opaque once ready (approximately 4-5 minutes total cooking time).
Assemble the Dish
- Drain the pasta completely and add it to the large pan of sauce, along with the cooked shrimp, and stir to coat. Serve and garnish with a fresh lemon wedge, basil and red pepper flakes if desired.
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