Garlicky Orzo Shrimp Scampi with Asparagus
Garlicky Orzo shrimp scampi with asparagus made entirely from scratch! This orzo shrimp scampi is loaded with tons of garlic, toasted orzo pasta, the most delicious lemony shrimp, and tender asparagus spears!
I’m making the leap into spring food.
Well, for today, that is. Springtime coming at you on a cold, cold day in the form of sauteed orzo pasta topped with bright and sunny lemon shrimp and tender asparagus. If this doesn’t scream a springtime meal, I don’t know what does!
Today’s light yet filling orzo shrimp scampi is a complete meal in one. If you’re feeling generous, you could serve this along with some garlic bread on the side. I’ve been head over heels for this arugula salad (I’ll share soon, promise) so I’ve been working on perfecting the dressing and enjoying every second of that peppery, lemon goodness.
Orzo shrimp scampi is sort of the perfect comfort food to take us right into the next season. It’s a casserole-y dish, so it comes together pretty much in one pan (except one teeny-tiny thing), so it’s still perfect for the last of the winter months, but the flavors scream sunshine and springtime.
And I’m all here for it.
Lately, my days consist of recipe testing and watching Masterchef while I’m cooking. So it’s no surprise that I’ve been picking up all sorts of great tips and tricks along the way to make the food I share with you all a little more elevated.
One restaurant-style technique I always like to apply when I’m making a recipe that involves shrimp is using the shells to turn them into a stock, which we then use in the recipe to give it added flavor. It’s the foundation of my spicy shrimp pasta recipe. And over the years, I’ve learned that taking an extra second to saute the shells in oil before adding the aromatics and water gives it even more depth. Plus, my friend Samin (affiliate link) has consistently taught me that fat adds flavor. And guess what? Even that small drizzle of oil makes our shrimp stock all the more delicious.
Also, I should add, Samin isn’t my friend, but I’ve read Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat so many times that at this point, sometimes it feels that way.
What do I need to make Orzo Shrimp Scampi?
- shrimp stock
- olive oil
- lemon juice
- fresh garlic
- red pepper flakes
- dry orzo pasta
- fresh asparagus spears
- chopped parsley
What goes into the homemade shrimp stock?
- olive oil
- peeled shrimp shells (not the actual shrimp itself)
- a few sprigs of fresh parsley
- garlic cloves
- a few black peppercorns
How to make the orzo shrimp scampi stock:
The secret to making the best orzo shrimp scampi is the shrimp stock we make with the shrimp peels. That simple shrimp stock is the backbone of this entire recipe. Without it, it will still taste good, but it won’t have that deep, rich restaurant-quality flavor.
- Start by heating a small drizzle of olive oil in a medium saucepan. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp peels and saute them for about 2 minutes or until the shells change color.
- Then, add the water, parsley sprigs, peppercorns, smashed garlic, and a generous pinch of salt. Allow the stock to come to a boil, lower the heat, and let the stock simmer for 15 minutes: strain and reserve.
- When the stock cools, you can pour it into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. That way, you can make the orzo shrimp scampi quicker the day you decide to serve it.
Do I have to make the homemade stock?
No, you don’t have to make shrimp stock for today’s orzo shrimp scampi recipe if you don’t want to! You can buy the BTB lobster base (affiliate link) and make stock from that, and that would work well. You could also buy a carton of seafood stock and use that in place of homemade shrimp stock. And if you don’t want to use a seafood flavor stock at all, chicken stock works beautifully.
However, at least once, please make a batch of homemade shrimp stock and use it in this recipe. It makes all the difference!
How do you make orzo shrimp scampi?
- Once you’ve made the shrimp stock, you’ll need to marinate the shrimp. All you need is a plug of olive oil, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, salt, and about half of the minced garlic – no need to measure, eyeball the garlic.
- Heat the butter in a large skillet and allow for it to melt completely. Then, stir in the dry orzo in the pan and allow for it toast. Toasting the orzo gives it a deep nutty flavor, which pairs beautifully with the lemon zest in this recipe. Once the orzo is toasted, add the garlic and allow for it to heat through. Carefully pour in the prepared shrimp stock and lemon juice. Allow the stock to come to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-high and allow the orzo to cook through. This will take about 9-10 minutes. Once the orzo soaks up most of the liquid, nestle the shrimp into the pasta (so the shrimp touches the pan) in a single layer and sprinkle the asparagus on top.
- Cover the dish and allow the scampi to continue cooking on the low setting for 5-7 minutes or until the steam cooks the shrimp all the way through. Turn the heat off and allow the dish to sit covered for several more minutes. This ensures the flavors have a chance to mingle and the shrimp to cook all the way through (if it hasn’t already.) Then, uncover the dish, sprinkle with parsley and serve with lemon wedges on the side.
Can I use whole wheat orzo for this recipe?
Whole wheat pasta would work for this recipe. However, it may require an extra splash of liquid and a few additional minutes to allow the whole wheat orzo to cook all the way through.
Here’s why you’re going to love this orzo shrimp scampi recipe:
- you only really need a handful of simple ingredients, most of which are pantry staples
- it’s a beginner to a medium level recipe that has a significant impact. So you can make it and impress dinner guests
- you can make the stock ahead of time (if you use it, which you definitely should) and have this ready to go in around 30 minutes!
- Olive oil
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (with peels reserved)
- A few sprigs parsley, (plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped for finishing)
- 6-8 whole black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice + the zest of 1 lemon (plus additional wedges for serving)
- ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- 7 cloves garlic (2 smashed, 5 minced)
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 ¼ cups dry orzo
- 16-18 asparagus spears, cleaned + trimmed and cut into pieces
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, for serving
- SHRIMP STOCK: Add a small drizzle of olive oil into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp peels and saute them in the skillet for about 2 minutes or until they change color. Then add 3 cups of water, parsley sprigs, peppercorns, and 2 smashed cloves of garlic, along with a ½ teaspoon of salt. Allow the stock to come to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the stock through a mesh strainer, reserve 2 ¼ cups of the stock. If you have a little less than that, just add enough water to make 2 ¼ cups and stir to combine.
- MARINATE: While the stock is simmering, add the shrimp, 1 tablespoon olive oil, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, half the garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir to combine; set aside for later.
- COOK: Add the butter to the skillet and allow it to melt over medium heat. Stir in the orzo pasta and allow the orzo to toast for 3 minutes or until you can smell an almost nutty aroma. Then, stir in the remaining garlic and allow it to cook for 30 seconds. Carefully pour in the reserved shrimp stock and lemon juice, stir to combine, and kick up the heat to high for it to quickly come to a boil. Then, lower the heat to medium-high and allow the orzo to cook for 9-10 minutes or until most of the liquid is soaked up by the pasta. Nestle the shrimp in the orzo (so the shrimp touch the pan) in a single layer, place the asparagus on top, cover the dish and allow the orzo to continue cooking on the low setting for another 5-7 minutes or until the shrimp steam and cook through. Turn the heat off and allow the dish to just sit covered for a couple of minutes, so the flavors have a chance to mingle. Then, uncover the dish, stir to combine, sprinkle with parsley, and serve with lemon wedges to squeeze on top!