Linguine ai gamberoni alla Fra Diavolo (Linguine with flambeed shrimp, garlic and chile pepper)

I was intrigued by this recipe by Pasta Princess since it involves flambéing the shrimp, and decided to make my own version with some alterations. As far as I’ve been able to find out by googling, Fra Diavolo is a recipe that is typical of the Italian kitchen in the United States. Nevertheless I tried to make this recipe like I believe it might be made in Italy.

I like Pasta Princess’ suggestion to serve this over home-made pesto fettucine, but since I made this after work and didn’t have time to make fresh pasta, I used linguine as this type is often used for seafood pasta in Italy. It was a success. The shrimp combined very well with the garlic and the red pepper. Six cloves may seem like a lot, and it was garlicky but not too much. I think it would work well with pesto fettucine, so I’ll try that next time when I have more time. Thanks Cheryl aka Pasta Princess for the idea!

When I make something with jumbo shrimp, I always use raw wild caught shrimp with heads and shells still on. Wild caught is much better than farmed (which destroys the mangroves in places like Bangladesh, and you don’t even want to know what those shrimp eat) and you can make a very tasty stock from the heads and shells. Raw is better than cooked because shrimp overcooks easily as it is. In the Netherlands they are only available frozen, which contrary to fish is not a problem for shrimp. Locally caught shrimp is very small; only scampi are caught in a large size in the North Sea.


For 2 servings

500 grams (1.1 lbs) jumbo shrimp with heads

150-200 grams (1/3-1/2 pound) linguine

red pepper flakes to taste

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil


3 Tbsp cognac or brandy

6 cloves garlic, minced

pinch of sugar

400 grams (14 oz) canned tomatoes, chopped in the foodprocessor

1 glass (100 ml) dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc

2 Tbsp fresh basil, cut into strips


Peel and devein the shrimp, reserve heads and shells. Put the shrimp into a bowl with 2 Tbsp olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes. Mix and refrigerate until needed.

Sauté the heads and shells in 2 Tbsp olive oil until pink.

Add enough water to cover. Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.

Drain to obtain shrimp stock. Squeeze out the heads to get more flavor.

Let the shrimp stock reduce to about 4 Tbsp in a saucepan over medium heat.

Heat a frying pan. When it’s hot, add the shrimp in a single layer and cook without stirring for a bit less than a minute.

Off the heat, turn over the shrimp. Add the brandy or cognac. Wave a light match to let the cognac ignite. Shake the pan until the flames subside.

Put the flambeed shrimp in a bowl together with any juices left in the pan and set aside.

Return the frying pan to the heat. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil and the garlic.

Sauté over low heat until the garlic is golden, 5 to 10 minutes. Do not let the garlic turn brown!

Increase the heat and deglaze the pan with the white wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to get all the taste from the bottom.

Add the tomatoes and the concentrated shrimp stock as soon as most of the wine has evaporated. Season with salt, a pinch of sugar, and red pepper flakes to taste. Let this simmer until the sauce has a nice thick consistency. Meanwhile, cook the linguine in boiling salted water al dente according to package instructions.

About 1 minute before the linguine are cooked, lower the heat and add the shrimp to warm up.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the pan, together with most of the basil.

Toss to mix.

Serve on warm plates with the remaining basil. (Do not serve with grated parmigiano.)

Wine pairing

The strong flavors in this dish go well with an aromatic zingy dry white wine with tropical fruit in the nose, such as a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or a full-bodied Grüner Veltliner from Austria. A sauvignon blanc from Alto Adige (Südtirol) would also do the trick.

5 thoughts on “Linguine ai gamberoni alla Fra Diavolo (Linguine with flambeed shrimp, garlic and chile pepper)

  1. Thank you for pointing out that farm raised fish in places like Bangladesh, Vietnam and the Philippines destroys eco-systems and is certainly not raised to the standards we are used to. If it’s not available wild-caught, there are plenty of other options.
    I don’t think we would call it Fra’ Diavolo but in Italy we do tend to call some dishes “alla Diavola” to indicate they are hot. I also have the feeling we wouldn’t use that much garlic either. But those prawns looked mighty delicious!


    1. It was quite funny because the only recipes for Fra’ Diavolo I could find in Italian were translations from English 😉
      If you check the original recipe, you can see that I made some changes to make it more Italian — not adding half the garlic raw at the end for example, which would have made it even more garlicky.
      By the way, I’ve had quite a number of seafood pasta dishes in the United States that were ruined because there was an enormous amount of browned garlic in them. Not a nice flavor and completely overpowering everything else (the seafood probably wasn’t fresh anyway…). Yuck!


      1. Americans are under the misapprehension that Italian food requires enormous amount of raw garlic which, as you point out, covers the taste of everything else. Quite bizarre!


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