Lemon Caper Pasta with Shrimp
This fresh and flavorful Lemon Caper Pasta with Shrimp is a dinner you can have on the table in less than 30 minutes.
When I was a kid, if somebody had tried to serve me pasta with no visible (red) sauce, I’m pretty sure I would have been like “um yeah, no way.”
Luckily, I’ve expanded my palate a bit from the days when Prego represented the finest pasta sauce the world had to offer.
I love a well-crafted pasta dish with a combination of flavors and textures and just a light coating of simple sauce. This lemon caper pasta with shrimp is an flavorful weeknight meal that’s easy to make with pantry ingredients.
What you’ll need for this lemon caper pasta with shrimp:
- pasta – I like linguine for this recipe (and my salmon pasta), but you could also use spaghetti!
- shrimp – I find that 26-30 count peeled and deveined shrimp are the perfect size for this lemon pasta with capers recipe. That size also works great for my shrimp fajita recipe!
- butter – unsalted butter will form the backbone of the sauce.
- lemon juice – freshly squeezed lemon juice adds acidity to this lemon caper pasta. You can use white wine instead if you prefer.
- garlic – 4 cloves of garlic adds a ton of flavor to the sauce.
- capers – there’s nothing else quite like the salty, briny taste of capers! Any extra capers from the jar can be spooned over a cottage cheese lunch bowl or used to make salmon piccata.
- red pepper flakes – I like to add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of these for a little heat, but feel free to omit them for a milder version of this lemon caper shrimp pasta.
- salt – kosher salt is best for seasoning both the pasta water and the sauce of this shrimp and caper pasta.
- parsley – I love to add chopped fresh parsley for a little extra freshness. Basil would work well, too!
- Parmesan cheese – not everybody agrees with seafood + cheese together, but I do, sometimes. I like a little bit of Parm in crab stuffed salmon and on top of Cajun salmon pasta, and I think it works well as a garnish for this dish, too.
How to make lemon pasta with capers:
Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil so that you can cook your pasta. Salt the water very well and cook the pasta according to package instructions for al dente.
Make sure you save some pasta water to finish your lemon pasta with capers! More on that below.
While the pasta is cooking, remove the tails from the shrimp, if necessary. Pat the shrimp very dry with paper towels and season it with salt.
In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter, and then add the garlic and the shrimp. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until the shrimp are almost but not quite cooked all the way through.
Add the lemon juice, capers and red pepper flakes to the shrimp mixture, and continue cooking another minute or so or until the shrimp are cooked all the way through.
When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and return it to its pot. Pour the buttery shrimp mixture over the pasta, add a little bit of pasta cooking water and the parsley, and toss everything together.
The lemon caper pasta should be coated with a thin sauce. If needed, add a little more pasta cooking water to achieve this.
Divide the pasta between bowls or plates and serve it garnished with Parmesan cheese.
Always save some pasta water for lemon caper shrimp pasta:
Being an Italian grandma at heart, no matter what type of pasta I am making, I ALWAYS reserve a cup of pasta cooking water before I drain the noodles.
I do this because this water is kind of culinary magic! As the pasta cooks in the water, it releases excess starch (which is why the water gets cloudy as it cooks).
When you add a bit of this salty, starchy water to your lemon caper shrimp pasta, the starch acts as a binder and emulsifies the pasta and sauce together so that the noodles are perfectly coated in sauce.
The pasta cooking water trick works wonders for fettuccine bolognese and for this lemon pasta with capers, too!
What to serve with pasta with capers:
Sometimes I’ll serve this pasta with a side of blistered tomatoes (or even toss them right into the pasta).
- 12 ounces linguine
- 1 pound 26-30 count peeled and deveined shrimp
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for salting pasta water
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons capers
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- In large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions for al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, then drain pasta and return to pot.
- Meanwhile, remove tails from shrimp, if necessary, and discard. Pat shrimp very dry with paper towel. Sprinkle shrimp with salt.
- In large nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and shrimp; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp start to become pink and are almost cooked through, stirring frequently.
- Add lemon juice, capers and red pepper flakes; cook 1 minute or until shrimp turn opaque throughout, stirring frequently.
- Pour shrimp mixture over pasta. Add parsley and 1/4 cup pasta cooking water. Using tongs, toss to combine, adding more pasta water if needed to create a thin sauce. Serve pasta garnished with Parmesan cheese.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 407Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 275mgSodium: 1503mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 33g
This website provides estimated nutrition information as a courtesy only. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.
Note: This recipe was originally published in 2013. The recipe was updated in 2022 to be even better, the photos were reshot, and the post was revised accordingly. The original photos appear below.