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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Give your gnocchi the shrimp scampi treatment

One pan shrimp scampi with crispy gnocchi. The garlicky dumplings take the classic dish over the top.

By Melissa Clark

You could say that shrimp scampi, like “chai tea,” is a dish so nice they named it twice. But really, it comes down to a mistranslation.

The word “scampi,” in Italian, refers to a type of crustacean that’s similar to a langoustine — resembling a tiny lobster and often sautéed in olive oil with garlic and wine. When immigrants from Italy arrived in the United States in the early 20th century, scampi weren’t widely available, so they made the dish with local shrimp. Shrimp scampi was born.

So, translated, the dish is “shrimp shrimp” (just as chai tea translates to “tea tea”). But words and phrases evolve, and the word “scampi” in the United States now usually refers to the garlicky pan sauce the shrimp are cooked in.

All of this explains why, of the myriad scampi variations that exist, many don’t contain any shrimp at all. (I’m looking at you, chicken, scallop and squash.)

I keep the shrimp in this scampi variation, and they, along with their heady scampi sauce, share the pan with pillows of potato gnocchi.

The gnocchi serve several purposes here. They round out the dish, giving it heft. They absorb the glorious pan sauce, eliminating the need for bread or spaghetti. And, because they’re browned in the skillet before the shrimp are incorporated, they add a chewy-crisp texture that goes nicely with the juicy springiness of the shrimp.

You can use any premade potato gnocchi here — shelf-stable, frozen (and thawed) or refrigerated. Then, you can just toss them in the pan with some oil and let them sear until they turn bronze in spots and mostly tender within.

I say “mostly tender” because the thing about prepared potato gnocchi (as opposed to fluffier homemade versions) is that they always stay a bit dense and pliable in the center. To me, a person who adores springy matzo balls, bouncy mochi and the elasticity of the tapioca pearls in bubble tea, this is vastly appealing and the point of the dish. Light and airy, these are not.

But if you like a touch of chewiness, these deeply flavorful, garlicky dumplings and succulent shrimp, bathed in a buttery scampi sauce, are pleasing to eat and simple to make — a one-pan meal in under 30 minutes.

A dish that’s half the work for double the flavor is worth saying twice, don’t you think?

One-pan shrimp scampi with crispy gnocchi

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

Total Time: 25 minutes


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

1 pound gnocchi (fresh, frozen or shelf-stable)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced

1/2 cup dry white wine (or clam juice, or broth)

Kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal) and freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving

1 pound large or extra-large shrimp, shelled (deveined, if you like)

1 lemon

1/2 cup chopped parsley


1. In a large, preferably nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add gnocchi to the pan, breaking up any that are stuck together. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, tossing every 1 to 2 minutes, so they get golden and crispy all over. Transfer to a bowl or plate.

2. In the same skillet over medium-high, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil and all of the butter, letting it melt for a few seconds. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add wine, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and all of the red-pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, and let the wine reduce by half, about 2 minutes.

3. Add shrimp and sauté until they just start to turn pink, 2 to 3 minutes, depending on their size.

4. Return gnocchi to the pan and add another 1/4 teaspoon salt. Using a Microplane or other fine grater, grate the zest from the lemon into the pan. Add parsley, tossing well. If your pan looks dry, add a splash of water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing to combine, then remove pan from the heat.

5. Cut the naked lemon in two and squeeze in the juice from one half, gently tossing to combine. Taste and add more salt if you like. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges for serving.

6. Top with more olive oil and more red-pepper flakes, if you’d like, and serve with lemon wedges on the side.

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