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Cilantro Lime Pasta With Shrimp

This cilantro lime pasta with shrimp is a fusion of Italian and Thai flavors intertwined into one dish. It’s flavorful, filling, and easy enough to whip up on a weeknight for dinner. This recipe is dairy-free, nut-free, and can also easily be made gluten-free or vegan.

If you love Italian and Thai food, then you’re going to love this pasta dish. When you can’t decide which one you’re in the mood for, now you don’t have to. Some of our favorite fusion dishes include this recipe as well as our garlic umami noodles.

Here, we’re switching out traditional pesto and using cilantro pesto to amp up those Thai flavors while throwing in a couple of Italian ingredients for balance.

Key Ingredients

For the full list of ingredients, see the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  • Long pasta noodles. The sauce coats long noodles the best. I used spaghetti, but bucatini or linguine noodles would also work.
  • Shrimp. I used 25-30 size shrimp, but anywhere in the 21-40 size range is great.
  • Butter. This is what the shrimp cooks in and adds a more dimensional flavor to the final dish.
  • Cilantro pesto. A mix of cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, and aromatics make this pesto unlike anything else.

How to Make Cilantro Lime Shrimp Pasta

  1. Cook your pasta.

    Add your noodles to salted boiling water and cook until al-dente according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water.

  2. Make the cilantro pesto.

    In a large dry skillet over medium heat, toast the pepitas until lightly brown and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes, and transfer them to the bowl of a food processor. In the same skillet, add a little olive oil and the diced shallots. Cook until translucent and add them along with the rest of the pesto ingredients to the food processor. Blend until smooth, taste, and adjust the salt and/or lime juice as needed.

  3. Cook the shrimp.

    Season the shrimp with garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and cook in the butter over medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side until cooked through. Transfer to a covered plate and reduce the heat to medium-low.

  4. Toss & serve.

    Transfer the cooked pasta to the skillet, pour over the pesto, and a little over half of your reserved pasta water. Using tongs, scoop the pasta up and glide it through the sauce until all the noodles are well coated. Add more pasta water as needed. Top with shrimp, toss once more and serve.

Substitutions & Variations

Please remember that recipes are just a starting point.

How can you make this cilantro lime pasta using what you already have? Here are some ideas

  • No cilantro? If you’re one of those people that just can’t get behind cilantro, not to worry. You can use another type of pesto whether it’s arugula, red pesto, or walnut basil pesto.
  • Gluten-free? Make sure to use your favorite gluten-free noodles.
  • No shrimp? This would also be great with chicken.
  • No shallot? Instead, use two heads of garlic.
  • Vegan? Omit the shrimp and add in another protein, whether it’s tofu or white beans. Just keep in mind that you’ll want to cook them in the butter and seasonings first to build that flavor.

Helpful Tips

Use a large skillet. Aside from cooking the pasta, all the action will be happening in the skillet, so you want to make sure it’s large enough to mix in the cooked noodles, sauce, and shrimp.

Reserve some pasta water. The pasta water contains starch that is released when the pasta cooks and helps create a deliciously creamy sauce to coat the noodles.

Why cook the shallot for the pesto? It takes some of the raw, bitterness out and brings out its natural sweetness.

Make it easier by making the pesto ahead of time.

More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love

Cilantro Lime Pasta With Shrimp

5 from 4 votes
A large skill of cilantro lime pasta with shrimp.
This cilantro lime pasta with shrimp is a fusion of Italian and Thai flavors intertwined into one dish. It's flavorful, filling, and easy enough to whip up on a weeknight. This recipe is dairy-free and can also easily be made gluten-free or vegan.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Serving Size 4

Ingredients
 

  • 8 ounces dry long pasta noodles

Cilantro Pesto

Shrimp

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt reduce by half if using another kind
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter dairy-free or regular

Instructions

  • Add your noodles to salted boiling water and cook until al-dente according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water.
  • In a large dry skillet over medium heat, toast the pepitas until lightly brown and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Add them to the bowl of your food processor.
  • In the same skillet, add a little olive oil and the diced shallots. Cook until translucent and add them to the bowl of your food processor along with the rest of the pesto ingredients. Blend until smooth, taste, and adjust the salt and/or lime juice as needed.
  • Season the shrimp with garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and cook in the butter over medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side until cooked through. Transfer to a covered plate and reduce the heat to medium-low.
  • Transfer the cooked pasta to the skillet, pour over the pesto, and a little over half of your reserved pasta water. Using tongs, scoop the pasta up and glide it through the sauce until all the noodles are well coated. Add more pasta water as needed. Top with shrimp, toss once more and serve.

Notes

Use a large skillet. Aside from cooking the pasta, all the action will be happening in the skillet, so you want to make sure it’s large enough to mix in the cooked noodles, sauce, and shrimp.
Reserve some pasta water. The pasta water contains starch that is released when the pasta cooks and helps create a deliciously creamy sauce to coat the noodles.
Why cook the shallot for the pesto? It takes some of the raw, bitterness out and brings out its natural sweetness.
Make it easier by making the pesto ahead of time.
See the substitutions & variations section above if needed.

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