Brown Butter Is The Key To Unlocking Shrimp Pasta's Flavorful Potential

It's hard to imagine shrimp pasta being any better than it already is. Swirling strands of delicate noodles in a creamy sauce, punctuated with pieces of delicious shrimp — who would want to take away from that? But while shrimp pasta is magnificent as is, brown butter elevates the dish.

As far as proteins go, shrimp naturally tastes pretty good. The crustacean has a sweet, mild taste that doesn't need much but a dash of salt and pepper. With brown butter, the caramelized fat heightens the flavor of shrimp pasta, rather than masking it. It brings out the inherent sweetness of the shrimp while infusing the whole dish with its deep, nutty taste.

While pasta is typically tossed in the brown butter while it's still in the pan, recipe developer Kara Barrett opts to heat the shrimp in brown butter in her quick and easy brown butter shrimp pasta recipe. As the rich flavors of the brown butter are absorbed by the shrimp, the butter itself takes on the fresh, mildly fishy taste of the shrimp. Barrett then pours the shrimp and remaining butter onto the creamy pasta and mixes well to combine everything.

How to elevate shrimp pasta with brown butter

The toasted taste and heady aroma of brown butter are often enough for shrimp pasta. Yet, if you want a little more spice or flair, the combination works with a myriad of add-ins. When melting the butter down, toss in a few crushed cloves of garlic. The aromatic is buttery and pungent, enhancing the pasta with its beloved taste. Once the butter is sufficiently browned, scoop the garlic cloves out and quickly cook the shrimp. Toss the drained pasta into the pan and drizzle chili oil over it for some heat.

Give shrimp pasta a sweeter edge by adding pumpkin puree. Opt for a thicker type of pasta, like rigatoni or fettuccine, and toss it into the heated mixture of heavy cream and pumpkin puree. For the brown butter sauce, add chopped shallots and fresh sage leaves to lend the dish an earthier, savory touch. Remove the sage leaves and cook the shrimp in the melted butter. After about four minutes, fold the shrimp and browned butter into the pasta.

If pumpkin tastes too heavy, opt for a splash of lemon juice. Right before taking the browned butter off the stove, squeeze fresh lemon juice into the pan. Not only does the citrus ensure that you won't burn the butter, but it also brings lightness and tang to the strong, nutty taste of brown butter. Add the sauce to the pasta immediately and top with parmesan and lemon zest.