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There are certain dishes that are very hard to resist on certain menus: I almost always order a Greek Salad at a diner, frisee salad and mussels and frites at a bistro. Likewise, when I see any seafood Fra Diavolo at a good Italian restaurant, my decision is pretty much made.

In this vibrant recipe, big, fat shrimp are tossed in a spicy, garlicky tomato sauce with long, skinny pasta. This is an Italian classic for a very good reason and an all-time favorite in my house. I love it paired with a simple salad, such as Chopped Winter Salad, Escarole Salad, or Romaine, Pear, and Goat Cheese Salad.

Woman serving up Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Linguine from white serving dish.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Linguine: A spicy red sauce makes this classic Italian-American shrimp and pasta dish irresistible (go for big shrimp!)

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What Does Fra Diavolo Mean?

The phrase fra diavolo comes from Italian: the word “fra” refers to a monk, so it can be translated as “brother,” while “diavolo” just means the devil. So when you’re eating a fra diavolo sauce, you’re eating sauce in the style of Brother Satan! According to The Italian American Cookbook by John and Galiana Mariani, this name refers to both the red color of the sauce and its chili-pepper-based spice. In the ’30s, Lobster Fra Diavolo became very popular in America. Next, the shrimp version dish took hold, and you’ll still find it on Italian-American menus across the country.

Ingredients

Shrimp, fresh herbs, linguine, and other ingredients on white marble
  • Shrimp – The larger the shrimp, the more expensive the dish, yes, but also the more dramatic the presentation. Two pounds of shrimp to one pound of pasta is a pretty huge shrimp-to-pasta ratio, but with dishes like this, I believe you either have to go big or go home.
  • Tomatoes – You can decide between diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, or whole tomatoes that you chop or crush yourself. Some diced tomatoes come in more of a juice, and some come in a thicker puree. Same with crushed tomatoes. Both are fine here, but the ones in the thicker puree will obviously yield a thicker sauce. 
  • Linguine – You can use linguine or some other pasta shape that you prefer, but definitely go for a long noodle like spaghetti or bucatini.
  • White wine – All the alcohol will cook out, so this is officially a safe recipe to feed to kids (as long as everyone is ok with the kick of heat!).
  • Onion
  • Garlic – Hey, you didn’t think this robust sauce was going to be garlic-free, did you?
  • Dried oregano
  • Red pepper flakes – This is where the diavolo shows up!
  • Fresh basil – If you’re feeling fancy, try chiffonading your basil for an extra special flourish on top of this dish.
  • Parmesan – To serve.
Woman sprinkling Parmesan over bowl of Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Linguine.

How to Make Shrimp Fra Diavolo

  1. Sear your shrimp: Do this in batches so they brown up nicely but don’t cook through.
  2. Start the sauce: Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes until they become tender. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes, and sauté for one more minute until you can smell the garlic. Add the wine and simmer until reduced.
  3. Add tomatoes and simmer: Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a bit.
  4. Cook your pasta: While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta according to package directions.
  5. Finish the shrimp: Just before the pasta is done, add the partially cooked shrimp and half of the basil to the tomato sauce.
  6. Combine: Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water, and return to the pot. Pour over the sauce with the shrimp, add the ½ cup pasta water, and toss to combine.
  7. Serve: Transfer to a shallow serving bowl and top with the remaining basil. Sprinkle with some Parmesan, or serve the cheese on the side.
Forkful of Shrimp with linguine in tomato sauce.

Tips

  • The size of the shrimp you use is up to you. I stuck with extra-large here, which are usually labeled 21/25, as in 21 to 25 shrimp per pound. Please, go jumbo if you like — or if you are looking to wow a crowd, go colossal. If you change the size of the shrimp, remember to increase the final cooking time by a few minutes to make sure they are cooked through.
  • Note that the 28-ounce size can is a common size for tomatoes packaged in the U.S., but in Italy and other parts of Europe, you might find cans with slightly different volumes. The exact amount of tomatoes is flexible; just make sure your can is somewhere around the 28-ounce size.
  • You can always thin out a sauce with additional cooking water if you think it’s too thick. 
Serving of Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Linguine nest to serving bowl, with small bowl of Parmesan on the side.

FAQs

What kind of wine goes with Shrimp Fra Diavolo?

There are plenty of good choices in both the red and white wine camps. For white wine, try Pinot Grigio, a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, or as the Marianis suggest, a Valpolicella. For a red, try a fruity red like a Barbera or a Chianti.

Why do you need to reserve a small amount of the pasta cooking water and add it to the sauce?

A few good reasons. The hot cooking water will loosen a thick sauce, and it will provide a bit of seasoning to amp up the flavor, thanks to the salt that was added to the water at the beginning of cooking. And, thanks to the starch that is released from the pasta into the water, it will also encourage the sauce to adhere better to the cooked pasta.

What to Serve With Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Romaine, Pear, and Goat Cheese Salad

Pesto Crescent Rolls

Endive, Radicchio and Citrus Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

More Italian Pasta Recipes

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Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Linguine

5 from 5 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 6 people
A spicy red sauce makes this classic Italian-American shrimp and pasta dish irresistible (go for big shrimp!).

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound dried linguine
  • Kosher salt (to taste)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
  • Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 2 pounds extra-large shrimp (12/25 count) (peeled and deveined)
  • 1 large onion (halved and thinly sliced)
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup sliced or torn fresh basil leaves (divided)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan (to serve; optional)

Instructions 

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and sear for 1 minute on each side, just so the shrimp start to turn a brighter pink on the outside. Remove with tongs to a plate. Repeat with another tablespoon of oil and the remaining shrimp, seasoning them as well, then add the second batch of seared shrimp to the plate.
  • Return the pan to medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and when the oil is hot, add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes until they become tender. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes, and sauté for one more minute until you can smell the garlic. Pour in the wine and cook until the wine has reduced by about half, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally for 20 minutes, until the flavors meld and the sauce has thickened a bit.
  • While the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  • Just before the pasta is done, add the partially cooked shrimp and half of the basil to the tomato sauce and stir until the shrimp is hot and cooked through, about 2 minutes.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water, and return to the pot. Pour over the sauce with the shrimp, add the ½ cup pasta water, and toss to combine. Transfer to a shallow serving bowl, and top with the remaining basil. Sprinkle with some Parmesan or serve the shrimp dish with the Parmesan passed on the side for those who want it.

Notes

As with most shrimp dishes, the size of the shrimp is up to you. The larger the shrimp, the more expensive, but yes, the more dramatic the presentation. I stuck with extra-large here, which are usually labeled 21/25, as in 21 to 25 shrimp per pound. Please, go to jumbo if you like! If you are looking to wow a crowd, go to colossal, but remember to increase the final cooking time by a few minutes to make sure the shrimp are cooked through.

Nutrition

Calories: 570kcal, Carbohydrates: 63g, Protein: 42g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 381mg, Sodium: 1282mg, Potassium: 491mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 214IU, Vitamin C: 15mg, Calcium: 274mg, Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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