Head-on Shrimp in Garlicky Tomato Sauce

Head-on Shrimp in Garlicky Tomato Sauce 1266 1266 Lee Kalpakis

Head-on shrimp is a show stopper – a dish that seems to be reserved primarily for restaurant dining, and I’m not sure why that is. Cooking whole shrimp is super easy and eating them is way more fun than eating the peeled ones. Most importantly, cooking shrimp in their whole shell allows them to retain more flavor and moisture which you lose a lot of when the shells are removed. So, for this recipe in particular, you’re getting even more juicy, lemony, winey, spicy, flavor with each bite by leaving the heads. It’s perfect served with a loaf of crusty bread to mop up all the juices and works very well for a warm night on the patio or a cozy night in, especially with a glass (or two) of Bodegas Piérola, Rioja Tempranillo Blanco.  

Serves: 4


2 pounds head-on shrimp

1/2 cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, sliced thin

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

A splash of white wine

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 lemons

2 tablespoons parsley leaves


Add olive oil to a large skillet on medium high heat. Once oil is warmed, add garlic and red pepper flakes.

Once the garlic begins to sizzle, add tomato paste and stir so the paste is in a thin layer and can cook evenly, for about 1 minute. Add the juice of one lemon and a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan and continue to stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add shrimp and allow to cook just a few minutes on each side, until they are bright pink. Stir shrimp until they become coated with tomato paste mixture.

Once the shrimp are cooked, transport them to a serving dish, squeeze one half of the second lemon over them, cut the other half into wedges, and add to serving dish. Garnish with parsley, more salt, and a drizzle of olive oil, and serve immediately.

Lee Kalpakis is a recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She grew up in her family’s restaurant in the Hudson Valley and has since worked as a cook, host, producer, and writer in the food media world. She loves natural wine, summer produce, and rock and roll music.

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