Easy 30-minute meal! This shrimp in red sauce is not only quick to make, but is infused with the flavors of a homemade tomato sauce and is fantastic served with pasta, rice or zucchini noodles.
This shrimp in red sauce recipe is made for weeknights, when easy 30-minute meals reign supreme. A good solid marinara sauce makes everything better and seared shrimp are no exception.
Since we always have frozen shrimp in the freezer and they are easy to defrost at the last minute, I often rely on them when my meal planning intentions have dissolved. That happens more often than I care to admit. Sweet chili shrimp with rice and stir-fried veggies, shrimp cauliflower fried rice and teriyaki shrimp tacos are regulars around here.
I’ve been making variations on this recipe for years. Sometimes with feta cheese and Kalamata olives stirred in, and other times with more of a north African influence. If you’ve never tried tomato sauce with ground coriander, sweet paprika and cumin (like used in Shakshuka recipes), you’re missing out!
In this recipe, I opted for more of a traditional Italian influence, cooking the tomato sauce with onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano.
What you need for this shrimp in red sauce recipe:
These are the main components of this recipe (affiliate links included):
- Shrimp: I used large shrimp (31-35 per pound) for this recipe, but medium shrimp would be fine, too. Be sure to start with raw shrimp, peeled and tails removed.
- Tomatoes: Canned crushed tomatoes are the main ingredient for the sauce, so make sure to use good-quality ones. They cost a couple of dollars more, but the flavor difference is noticeable.
- Aromatics: Half of a yellow onion and a few cloves of garlic.
- Olive oil: Used to toss with the shrimp, and for sautéing the onion and minced garlic cloves.
- Seasoning: A simple list - dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes (chili flakes), salt and pepper
What are the best crushed tomatoes?
As mentioned above, spending a couple of extra dollars will get you much better canned tomatoes. Many people like to add a little sugar to their tomato sauce, but it’s really not necessary when the tomatoes are higher quality (naturally sweeter).
I use SMT San Marzano Style Tomatoes, which are available in many well-stocked grocery stores. Note: These are not actually San Marzano tomatoes, widely known as the cream of the crop. They’re grown in the USA, not in Italy, but are a very good substitute.
If you prefer a chunkier sauce, use a combination of crushed tomatoes and canned petite diced tomatoes. Or start with whole canned tomatoes (real San Marzano ones if you can find them) and break them up with a wooden spoon as the sauce simmers.
How to make shrimp in red sauce:
This recipe really couldn’t be any easier. There are two main parts: 1) Cooking the shrimp and 2) Making the sauce.
Start by tossing the peeled shrimp with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat until it’s good and hot. Add the shrimp to skillet and spread them into a single layer. If the skillet isn’t big enough to hold all of the shrimp, cook them in two batches. They cook quickly, about one minute per side, so watch carefully! Transfer the shrimp to a plate and set aside.
If the bottom of the skillet is coated in browned bits, I recommend carefully wiping them off with a damp paper towel (remember, the pan is hot!) or washing the pan. While browned bits from cooking meat are usually great for adding flavor to sauces, like in a white wine sauce, the browned shrimp bits in this case will darken and lift off the pan while making the tomato sauce. Big chunks of blackened pieces isn’t that tempting. I learned that the hard way!
For the tomato sauce, start by sautéing the onion in a little olive oil. The skillet should be set over medium heat for this step.
Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and cook for another minute. Take care not to burn the garlic, otherwise it becomes bitter.
Stir in the crushed tomatoes and heat the mixture. Cook the sauce at a gentle simmer for about 15 minutes, which is enough time for the flavors to meld and the sauce to thicken slightly. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings, if desired.
Last step – stir in the cooked shrimp and parsley. Serve it up!
How to tell when shrimp is done:
One of my rules for all shrimp recipes – don’t walk away from the pan! When cooked in a hot pan, large shrimp cook in a flash. Really, it takes just a minute per side. And you want to avoid overcooking shrimp at all costs because they have a tendency to become tough and rubbery. Not a good texture experience!
When done, shrimp turn from translucent to opaque. Bon Appetit has a great article on cooking shrimp and one of their tips is to keep your eye on the slit in the back of the shrimp, where it was deveined. As soon as the flesh in that area turns opaque, the shrimp is done.
What to serve with shrimp in red sauce:
The obvious choice is to toss the shrimp and tomato sauce with pasta. Always delicious! Here are some other options:
- Serve over rice
- Serve over quinoa
- Stir in cauliflower rice or use it as a base.
- Toss with lightly sautéed or raw zucchini noodles
Serve it with a salad on the side, such as:
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can this be made ahead of time?
Yes and no. The shrimp are best when served shortly after being cooked.
However, the tomato sauce can easily be made ahead of time. Make it up to a couple of days in advance, transfer it to an airtight container once cooled and store in the refrigerator. Reheat in the skillet, then add the freshly cooked shrimp and parsley before serving.
How do I reheat the leftovers?
While this dish is best when served immediately after cooking, leftovers can be reheated.
Marinara sauce always reheats well, so no issue there. Shrimp, however, tend to become tough and rubbery if overheated.
Avoid the microwave. Instead, gently reheat leftovers in a skillet set over medium-low to medium heat until the shrimp are just heated through.
Can I use precooked shrimp?
I highly recommend starting with raw shrimp. They cook lightning fast, needing about 1 minute per side in a really hot pan, so dinnertime won’t be delayed. Plus, you can season raw shrimp properly. Any seasoning added to precooked shrimp won’t truly seep into the shrimp – it will just be on the surface.
Precooked shrimp are best saved for a quick appetizer, dipping them into cocktail sauce. If used in cooked dishes, they require reheating, which results in overcooked shrimp.
Shrimp in Red Sauce Recipe
- 1 pound peeled large shrimp deveined (see Note 1)
- 4 teaspoons olive oil divided
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt divided
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper divided
- ½ small yellow onion finely diced (see Note 2)
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (see Note 3)
- 1 (28 oz.) can good-quality crushed tomatoes (see Note 4)
- 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- Place the shrimp in a medium bowl. Toss with 2 teaspoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
- Heat a large nonstick or ceramic skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp in a single layer and about 1 minute per side, flipping over the shrimp with tongs. If the shrimp don’t fit into the skillet in a single layer, cook them into 2 batches. Transfer the shrimp to a plate or bowl.
- If there are a lot of browned bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet, either carefully (pan is hot!) wipe them out with a damp paper towel or wash the skillet.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in the skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and becomes translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, oregano, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes. Cook at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
- Stir in the cooked shrimp and parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with pasta, rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.
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