Pasta with Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I usually make a version of this dish during weeknights. It always involves sautéed garlic, shrimp, and hot peppers. Sometimes it gains a Mexican flair and I add cilantro and lime juice and serve it over rice with some salsa, and sometimes it gets an Italian flair and I serve it in tomato sauce over pasta. It takes a very short time and it is very tasty.


For this recipe I used fresh tomatoes to create a very quick sauce. I blanched the tomatoes to remove the skins and then briefly cooked them before adding them to the shrimp. To save time, you can use a can of diced tomatoes instead.

The recipe also calls for two chili peppers. You can reduce the spiciness here by either de-seeding the chili peppers of your choice (or using very mild chili peppers like poblano), or using a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to taste. Or if you're adventurous, you can use more chili peppers and leave seeds in


The origins of this dish are not entirely clear. And there isn't an accompanying story as interesting as that of the puttanesca sauce. In culinary terms, fra diavolo (which is Italian for the devil friar or brother) refers to a spicy tomato-based dish incorporating shellfish. There was also a somewhat unruly man named Michele Pezza whose nickname was Fra Diavolo. He inspired, inter alia, a French opera of the same name and several works by Alexandre Dumas, and perhaps also this dish.

Pasta with Shrimp Fra Diavolo
(Serves 4)

1/2 lb (227 g) whole wheat spaghetti
4 plum tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 small chili peppers (or to taste, seeds optional), chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb (227 g) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp basil
salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta to slightly before al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the water. Mix the pasta with a bit of oil to keep it from drying out.
2. Bring another pot of water to a boil. Add the tomatoes, and blanch for 2-3 minutes. Remove with tongs and let cool slightly. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin with a pairing knife, discard the skins and dice the tomatoes. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a saucepan, add the tomatoes and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. In the meantime, in a separate large tall-sided pan, heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and the chili peppers, sauté until softened slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Add the shrimp and sauté quickly until the shrimp is fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice, and cook until the juice is evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the cooked diced tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Once the sauce starts to simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium, add the pasta along with the reserved water to the pan. Mix well. Bring back to a simmer, and cook until the liquid has thickened slightly, about 2-3 minutes more. Serve.


  1. I like it SPICY and with lots of seafood! Yummy!

  2. What a perfect dinner! I too want my shrimp spiced dramatically and tossed with a bed of pasta. :)

  3. Before I never had interest in cooking but when I got married, and I started cooking our own dishes, I started liking ill the more now when I see how you are successfully making each dish irresistible. You're becoming my online cooking teacher in fact :))))))

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  5. So many typos that I had to delete my comment. :) What I MEANT to say is how perfect this pasta looks - nice pasta to goody (shrimp + veggie) ratio. I first had this dish in Boston at a little hole in the wall restaurant in the Italian district and now just the name Fra Diavolo makes my mouth water...

  6. I love the little fra diavolo history :) & LOVE Italian food! :D I really have to try this. It looks amazing plus it's healthy ;) Thank you!!!

  7. The carb addict in me wants to make this at 9 am. Wow - it looks wonderful.

  8. This dish is inspiring! And, I love how you used purple basil. Very nicely done!

  9. Psychelyn: I also started cooking after I got married, and there was just so much I didn't know! Cooking is definitely a learn by doing kind of thing. And so nice to know this actually inspires someone :))

    Susan: thanks for noticing! I hadn't heard of purple basil until I saw it at the farmer's market and recognized it by its smell. I thought it would make an awesome garnish!

  10. Just look at the colours in this! I love love love it! the purple basil esp adds a very interesting burst of deep maroon colour to the dish. Been experimenting with different kinds of basil lately, and I liek the subtleties of flavour one can get by trying different varieties. this sounds and looks gorgeous kat!

  11. Drooling over this dish! Shrimp just might be my favorite seafood item of all time.

  12. Wow this looks so good, every dish you make is mouthwatering :)

  13. And I thought diavolo was because it´s spicy and has red in it, nice culinary lesson you gave us! Wonderful and easy pasta. I suspect you are the adventurous, extra chili kind of girl...!

  14. Paula, your suspicions are correct ;)

  15. ...aaaaaand yet another thing to add to my "must make because OMG Kat makes it look so awesome" list. The fact that your blog is making me drool after all the food we gobbled up in Europe (by the end we were like, "OMG, we can't eat another thing, detox time once we return to Oz!") is a miracle within itself. :D



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