Scampi is the Italian word for shrimp. Shrimp scampi became popular in the United States after World War II when troops from the United States were exposed to traditional Italian cooking. The dish is prepared in many different ways, depending on the cook, but specific variations of pasta complement the shrimp best. Strand pasta is the best partner for succulent shrimp, but a cook can use her own creativity to determine what is best for her dish.
Angel Hair Pasta
Angel Hair pasta is a thin variation on traditional spaghetti. The name refers to the fineness of each noodle, which cooks quickly because of its delicacy. The result is a malleable, light pasta. Many shrimp scampi recipes include garlic, butters, oils and strong herbs in the sauce. The shrimp meat takes these flavors well, as does a light strand pasta. Angel Hair pasta's noodles will give substance to a scampi recipe without taking away from the dynamic flavors of a sauce, or the shrimp meat's distinctiveness.
Vermicelli is a thin pasta, thinner and more delicate than angel hair. The thinness provides the same benefits as angel hair, but makes for an even lighter dish. Often a scampi is cooked with a light cream sauce or simple oil-based recipe. This is a good match for vermicelli. Thinner pasta that resemble vermicelli provides an even lighter foundation for a shrimp scampi. Lighter pasta calls for a lighter sauce. A cook can use smaller shrimp with a lighter pasta, as large prawns will overpower a delicate pasta. Capellini is a thinner and more delicate variation on vermicelli that is enhanced with a citrus-based scampi sauce. A thicker version of the pasta called vermicelloni is a good option for heavy, cream-based shrimp scampi sauces.
Linguine is wide and flat. The heartiness of linguine is another pairing option for scampi, as the robust noodles make for a satisfying meal partnered with large prawns. Creamy sauces are best with a linguine scampi; the cream complements the pronounced flour taste of the noodles and the shrimp's tender meat. With a linguine scampi, less is more. When serving a linguine scampi use less pasta on each plate, focus on the sauce and the shrimp as they are the highlight of the dish.
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Penne and Farfalline
Penne, a tubular pasta, while not a traditional shrimp scampi pasta, is another option. Penne is denser than strand pasta, meaning it will be more susceptible to the absorption of sauce. So, a shrimp scampi with a cream sauce will make for a very heavy meal. Lighter cream sauce, such as a vodka sauce is a good pairing for a penne scampi.
Farfalline is known as bowtie pasta. The shape of the pasta combined with the curled bodies of the shrimp make for a interesting presentation on the plate. Bowtie pasta is denser than strand pasta, but not as dense as penne. It couples nicely with a cream or oil-based shrimp scampi sauce. Smaller shrimp mixed into a bowtie pasta is a fun meal for the entire family.
Whole wheat pastas are a healthy alternative to the heavy flour pastas. Whole wheat spaghetti has a longer cook time and a biting flavor. The pasta has the added benefit of contributing to a scampi-lover's health. Whole wheat has a high-fiber content that promotes digestion. Some even include omega-3s and protein.
Those allergic to wheat have gluten-free pasta options. Noodles made with a rice or soy base are available at health food stores. Rice noodles tend to be light, making for shorter cook times. A shrimp scampi with a white wine sauce makes a good complement to rice noodles. The flavor of gluten-free pasta is most like flour pasta, so scampi recipes for flour-based pasta will also work for gluten-free.
Tiffany Ross is a writer and actress who has been working in Chicago since 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting and is completing her Master of Science in Oriental medicine. Ross is a world traveler with experience working overseas.