Shrimp fra Diavolo with linguine is a dish that's really close to my heart. As a kid, it was the first dish I ordered off the grown-up menu at one of our favorite Italian restaurants. And to this day, this garlicky tomato shrimp dish with just the right amount of heat remains at the top of my list. Mainly because it is delicious, but also because it is so darn easy.
Editor’s Note: Originally Published December 5, 2018. Updated with more relevant info.
When I started "experimenting" in my Mother's kitchen I just had to know how to make it! And this recipe is the one that I have been making for nearly 30 years.
What Is Shrimp Fra Diavolo?
Shrimp fra Diavolo is a spicy shrimp dish with plum tomatoes, garlic, white wine, and sometimes brandy. It's often served over linguine or spaghetti.
Fra Diavolo translates into "Devil Monk". According to Wikipedia, "Fra Diavolo" was the name given to Michele Pezza, a Neopolitan guerilla leader. Most people believe that this dish was named after him. He must have had some reputation.
Based on my limited research this is one of many dishes that was created in America by Italian immigrants. I could not find any mention of shrimp fra Diavolo actually originating in Italy.
And finally, this New York Times article says the dish was created on Long Island, NY. Just like me😉. Not surprising since this dish was, and is still on almost all Italian restaurant menus in the tri-state New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area.
For this recipe, you will need large shrimp, linguine, plum tomatoes, dry white wine, brandy, garlic, hot red pepper flakes, baking soda, oregano, parsley, and olive oil.
How To Make It
Each numbered pic corresponds to the numbered written instructions below.
- Picture of ingredients. Boil pasta in salted water for 1 minute less than package instructions call for. Season the water with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt per gallon of water.
- Chop or slice 8 cloves of garlic.
- Clean the shrimp, pat dry, and place in a bowl.
- Add 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or to taste - this will be spicy!), ¼ cup olive oil, ½ tsp kosher salt, and the ½ teaspoon baking soda. Mix well and set aside.
- Before draining pasta reserve a mug full of pasta water.
- Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and squeeze with your hand to break them up. Do it in a sink with one hand acting as a shield. Alternatively, you can pulse in a blender for 1-2 seconds.
- Heat pan on medium heat and add the shrimp/oil mixture. Saute until pink and firm (approximately 2 minutes per side).
- Remove shrimp, plate, and set aside, lightly covered to keep warm.
- In the same pan add a little olive oil and saute chopped garlic on medium heat for 2 minutes or until golden. Then, turn the heat on high and add the wine and brandy. Keep your head away from the pan to avoid singed eyebrows! Brandy sometimes flames up for a bit, as can any alcohol. Let it come to a boil for 1 minute.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and add the tomatoes and oregano. Let it simmer for 10 minutes uncovered. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt and spiciness levels.
- Remove half the sauce from the pan and reserve in a bowl. Add ¼ cup of pasta water along with the pasta to the pan with the sauce. Turn heat to medium and thoroughly coat the pasta. Add the shrimp to the pasta, turn the heat down, and combine all the flavors.
- Now is the time to add a little bit more sauce if needed and get it just right. Finally, add the parsley. Any extra sauce can be served on the side with crusty bread.
Serve simple green veggie sides with fra Diavolo. These are all quick and easy:
Lobster is a great substitute for shrimp and if using just tails it's actually easier to make! When making the lobster version I will simply boil the tails a little less than fully cooked and then finish them in the sauce. Scungilli, clams, mussels or a combination of all would be excellent options.
- Buy good quality shrimp! I say the same thing in my Shrimp Scampi Recipe. No amount of doctoring and spicing up of the sauce will compensate for poor quality shrimp, which is the main ingredient in this dish.
- The shrimp only take a few minutes to cook and will be further heated at the end so go easy. The baking soda is an old Chinese restaurant trick and it will keep the shrimp much plumper. The baking soda imparts no taste, so don't worry about that.
- Always cook pasta "al dente" which literally translates to "to the tooth", so it is not mushy when serving. It's important to finish the pasta in the sauce to thoroughly coat it. If finishing in the sauce proves difficult, a good technique is to mix everything into a large serving bowl and cover it with plastic wrap for a few minutes. The pasta will absorb some of the sauce this way.
More Classic Italian Seafood Recipes
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- 1 pound large shrimp
- ½ pound linguine
- 1 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes crushed by hand or blender pulsed
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ¼ cup brandy
- 1 cup pasta water reserved
- 8 cloves garlic sliced
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 2 Tbsp fresh parsley minced
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Boil pasta to 1 minute less than package instructions in salted water. Before draining pasta, reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Chop or slice the garlic.
- Place shrimp in a bowl and add ½ tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, ½ tsp baking soda, and ¼ cup of olive oil. Mix well.
- Heat large pan to medium heat and saute shrimp until pink. About 2 minutes per side. Remove shrimp from pan and set aside.
- In the same pan saute the garlic for 1-2 minutes until golden. Add the white wine and brandy and turn heat to high. Bring to boil for 1 minute. Lower heat to medium-low and add tomatoes and oregano. Stir to combine and let the sauce simmer.
- After 5-10 minutes of simmering remove half the sauce and set aside. Add ¼ cup of pasta water to saucepan and add the pasta. Turn heat to medium and thoroughly coat the pasta for 1 minute.
- Finally, add the shrimp back to the pan with the parsley and reduce heat to low. Stir it all together for 1 more minute then remove from heat. Taste and adjust spice and salt levels. Enjoy!
- The extra sauce can be used for bread dipping or added to the pasta if a little dry.
- The spice level should be adjusted up or down according to taste. Fra diavolo should be a spicy sauce but adjust according to taste.
- Salt is kept down in this recipe. Adjust to taste.
- Serve with crusty Italian bread.
This recipe was originally published on December 5, 2018. It was completely updated on February 6, 2020.