Shrimp scampi a perennial Italian favorite
hrimp scampi is one of those staple entrées that have adorned menus around the world for decades. Its origin starts with a langoustine, which is a tiny lobster-like crustacean generally sautéed in olive oil with garlic and finished with white wine. Another translation for the word scampi is simply “prawn,” which is similar to a large shrimp. In the United States we call it shrimp scampi.
We’ve come to love this dish as shrimp of any size sautéed in a delicious garlic butter often served over a delicate bed of pasta. It’s something I learned to make more than 35 years ago when I first got started in the restaurant business. Being young and naïve, I assumed its preparation was simply the same no matter who was preparing it, but realized early in my career that there are several variations as in any dish. A complaint came in from a patron who worked in another restaurant stating “this isn’t shrimp scampi. You’re missing the peppers and onions.” Of course I thought this customer was crazy, but then realized that in the world of culinary arts, anything goes and that was the recipe they were used to making. I thought I would share some variations with you so you can test out the ones that speak to you. Think about what might work best for your establishment. Always feel free to tweak a recipe or its presentation if you can think of a twist that would please the culinary palate of your customers.
Here’s the excellent scampi butter recipe that I’ve been using for all these years:
Here are some variations of scampi recipes:
Olive Garden has been offering a chicken scampi dish on their menu for about 20 years now. When chain restaurants keep a dish for that long with all of the menu changes they have gone through, you know it’s a great seller! It’s made of a sautéed medley of yellow, red and green bell peppers with lightly floured chicken tenders. It’s then finished with a creamy scampi sauce made of a scampi butter with a touch of Alfredo sauce, then tossed with pasta.
Now you have two primary types of scampi sauce: one is garlic-butter based and the other is a creamier version. Take your pick. Now that we’ve got an established recipe, we can consider other additions just like the peppers and onions my customer insisted should be in the original recipe. Consider these:
- Scampi Florentine would have some fresh spinach tossed in at the last minute.
- Scampi Asperge would have some fresh asparagus tossed in the dish before finishing it.
- A New Orleans-style scampi would have some large chunks of ripe tomato, diced onion and peppers, sliced andouille sausage, okra and a little Cajun spice. This version would be great served over dirty rice.
- Grilled Scampi would be skewering shrimp, even adding some colorful veggies, like red onion and colorful peppers and grilling them while basting the skewers with melted scampi butter. This is a fresher, slightly healthier and eye appealing version!
Here’s a fantastic idea for you to try in the world of starters or appetizers. It stretches the concept of shrimp scampi, but that is how great ideas are born! This would be popcorn shrimp scampi. Fry up some of your favorite or popular breaded popcorn shrimp. As soon as they come out of the fryer and are plated, liberally dust the shrimp with a garlic/ Parmesan blend that is made up of grated Parmesan, granulated garlic and parsley flakes. Serve this dish with a side of garlic aioli or garlic cream sauce for dipping.
Now, of course, shrimp scampi does not need to be excluded in the pizza department. You’ve heard me say on numerous occasions that a stretched-out pizza shell is to a chef what an empty canvas is to an artist. Without any sauce on the dough at all, simply feather your cheese directly onto your dough with dollops of partially cooked and peeled shrimp in garlic butter. Carefully scatter upon your pizza and bake to perfection. You can even brush more melted garlic butter onto the edges of the crust!
There you have it: a plethora of scampi ideas for you to go into your culinary playground and just play and create some masterpieces for your customers, creating raving fans!
Jeffrey Freehof is a frequent Pizza Today contributor, Pizza Expo speaker, chef and restaurant consultant.