Shrimp Pasta Diablo

Once again the experts at Cooks Illustrated have delivered on a fantastic recipe. I've made this about ten times now and each time it's been a hit with the crowd.

Don't be afraid of the spice, you can control how hot this gets. The recipe below will leave you with a pleasant tingling sensation but not a burn; cut the pepper in half and you'll have just a hint of spice. I've added a few more tips of my own below.

Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8
Difficulty: Medium
A. shrimp, large 1 pound,
31-35 count
Frozen, but uncooked. Peeled and deveined. Size matters. Too small will overcook. Too large will be under done.
crushed red pepper flakes 0.5 teaspoon  
olive oil 2 tablespoons  
  kosher salt 0.75 teaspoon  
  cognac or brandy 0.25 cup  

Get 4 quarts of salted water on the stove to boil.

Heat a heavy, 12-inch skillet on high for about 4 minutes. This is very important; don't chicken out and go too soon. The pan needs to be really, really hot. I didn't get it hot enough the first time and missed out on a tremendous part of the flavor of this dish.

While the pan heats, toss the shrimp with the red pepper flakes, olive oil, and salt. Stir them around to coat the shrimp and let them sit.

When the pan is really, really, really hot, dump in the shrimp and use a wooden spoon to spread them out into a single layer. Let them just sit there for 30 seconds; the bottoms will turn a mottled brown.

Remove from heat and stir the shrimp so their other sides are down.

Add the cognac and wait just a second or two. Put the pan back on the heat and wave a match over the pan until the cognac lights. Whoosh  - watch your eyebrows! Shake the skillet until the flames die down.

Pour the whole mess into a holding bowl.

B. garlic, minced 3 tablespoons About 8 cloves.
olive oil 3 tablespoons  

Let the skillet cool a bit. Return to a low heat.

Add the garlic and olive oil. Cook the garlic, stirring all the time until it is well cooked - straw colored, not brown.

This takes about 6 minutes and is a key step in bringing out the flavor.

C. crushed red pepper flakes 0.5 teaspoon Yes, more pepper.
kosher salt 0.75 teaspoon Yes, more salt.
sugar 0.5 teaspoon  
  tomatoes 28 ounce can diced Be sure they are unflavored. Drained well.
  dry white wine 1 cup Sauvignon Blanc is good. Chardonnay is not - too oaky.
  linguini 1 pound Angel hair pasta is too thin for this dish. Can also use other heavy pasta types.

Make sure the tomatoes are drained or you'll have good tasting but watery sauce. 

Add the additional pepper flakes and salt, sugar, tomatoes, and wine.

Simmer on medium high for 8 minutes.

After four minutes add the pasta to the boiling water.

D. garlic, minced 1 tablespoon About 4 cloves.
Italian parsley 0.25 cup Chopped.

To the sauce, add the shrimp and all their juices, the rest of the garlic, and the parsley. Simmer until the shrimp are hot again.

When the pasta is done, drain it - saving 1/3 cup of the pasta water. 

Put the pasta in a big bowl, add the reserved water to the pasta and about 1/2 cup of the sauce. Toss well.

You can now either add the sauce and serve family style, or put the pasta into bowls and top each with sauce. If you do serve this family style, make sure Uncle John doesn't take all the shrimp - this stuff is sooooo good he'll be tempted.


From a fan:

Dear Jim Schrempp,

I am dropping you a line to say thanks for the recipe!

I live in Chelsea, Quebec - a very small community just outside of Ottawa, Ontario (Capital of Canada). Last Friday, I was browsing the Internet for inspiration for a shrimp and pasta dish and your site came up with "Shrimp Diablo". Since we had just had our first dump of snow - and it was pretty chilly and dark out - I wanted something with a bit of a kick to it - some heat - to enjoy with a nice bottle of wine on a Friday night.

Well - I made it and we loved it (kids too!) - I added about 1/3 of a cup of cream at the very end - AMAZING! It was delicious.

So - thanks for publishing your recipes! I'll check you again when I am looking for inspiration.

Carie Wright
Chelsea Quebec

Thanks Carie!


Aug 2006
Hi, Jim,

I made this last night for a special dinner with the girls and it was fabulous!  I can't tell you how proud I was of myself - and the flame thing impressed us all (no burnt eyebrows!)  It was just scrumptious.  Thanks and I will try more of your recipes.  I can tell you know your stuff.

P. in  St. Louis

Thanks for the kind words,