Shrimp scampi gets its rich flavor from a blend of butter, garlic, herbs and lemon. Although shrimp scampi can be served over pasta, serving it with a side dish or two, along with bread and appetizer, creates a bistro-style meal worthy of the dish's European roots. Choose between starch and vegetable side dishes to complement this shellfish-based protein main course.
A simple tossed green salad works as a side dish for shrimp scampi because it cuts the richness of the scampi with the fresh crispness of the tossed greens. Use bitter greens such as spinach, kale and arugula for their pungency to cut the richness of the scampi, especially when adding cream to the dish. Toss the greens in a light vinaigrette and use additional ingredients sparingly. For less rich scampis, serve a Bibb lettuce salad with grape tomatoes and an herbal dressing. Plate the salad and scampi together, allowing the juices to blend.
Serve shrimp scampi alongside buttered noodles with parsley instead of on top of plain spaghetti. Serving the noodles mixed with pesto or herbs as a side dish brings the pasta to the forefront as an accompaniment instead of relegating it to an under-the-shrimp snoozer. Toss pasta with herbal-infused olive oils and add fresh chopped herbs on top when serving. Use pasta shapes other than traditional linguine, spaghetti or angel hair. Orecciette, orzo, pappardelle and rotini all add texture to the traditional pasta side dish. Roasted red skin potatoes, chunked and tossed in an oil mixed with salt and herbs, also complement shrimp scampi. Aim for fork-tender potatoes with a crispy outer edge.
Colorful vegetables add fiber and nutrients as well as a color contrast on the plate to shrimp scamp main dishes. Long, narrow vegetables such as asparagus and French-cut green beans complement shrimp scampi as a side dish because the mix of the vegetables' long lines with the shrimp's curl creates contrast on the plate. Also, the flavor of the green beans or asparagus balances the richness of the scampi. Or opt for roasted pepper strips in red, orange and yellow or julienned zucchini, leaving the peel intact. Avoid sugary vegetables such as winter squashes, carrots or corn, which compound the richness of the scampi.
Classified as a fruit rather than a vegetable, a tangy tomato adds bite with its slight acidity to the traditional shrimp scampi. While sliced tomatoes or halved grape tomatoes tossed in vinaigrette alone work as a side dish for shrimp scampi, roasting or grilling the tomatoes deepens their flavor and adds even more to the plate. Before roasting, cut the tomatoes in halves or chunks. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve the roasted tomatoes on the same plate as the shrimp scampi, tossed with parmesan cheese.
- The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook; Jack Bishop
Andrea Lott Haney writes articles and training materials for food industry publications. Having studied foodservice sanitation, nutrition and menu planning at Purdue University, Lott Haney has more than 10 years of experience as a catering and event planner for luxury hotels and currently tours the Midwest as a corporate customer service trainer and consultant.