Shrimp Marinara is a meal that feels elegant and tastes amazing, yet can be made completely from scratch in less than 30 minutes. Choose this when you want to make something special without much time or fuss!
Easy Marinara Pasta with Shrimp
This easy shrimp marinara is the epitome of easy yet elegant cooking. The recipe is no fuss but punches way above weight for the average 30 minute meal, thanks to tender shrimp and the most delicious homemade marinara sauce. I could eat this again and again without complaint.
This is Italian-inspired cooking as you want it to be: simple ingredients, a classic method, and delicious seasonings. As the cook, you’ll love that the recipe is:
- Classic and flavorful. Tomatoes, garlic, and plenty of oregano carry the day.
- Mostly hands-off. Minimal chopping, lots of leisurely simmer time.
- Quick and easy. 30 minutes, start to finish, though if you have longer to let the sauce simmer, go for it.
My favorite pairing is to serve shrimp marinara over pasta with this zucchini casserole on the side. So, so good! I love this for busy weeknights when I still want to enjoy something healthy and elevated.
What is marinara sauce, exactly?
Wondering what precisely is the difference between marinara and other common pasta sauces? Marinara is a light tomato-based sauce used often with pizzas, pastas, and even as a dipping sauce or condiment. Unlike a traditional vodka, Alfredo, or spaghetti sauce, marinara does not usually contain meat, cream, or many other complex ingredients. The beauty of marinara is in its simplicity.
Of course you can buy jarred marinara, but the brands that taste best can be expensive, and it’s so easy to make your own. Master a homemade marinara sauce and simple yet impressive meals like this will be at your fingertips forever.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Here are a few notes and shopping tips about the ingredients you’ll need to make this, as well as possible substitutions. Find full amounts in the print-friendly recipe card below.
- Shrimp: To keep this recipe quick and easy, purchase shrimp that are already peeled and deveined. You can keep the tails on for looks or take them off for convenience. Keep reading for tips on how to defrost shrimp fast.
- High quality canned crushed tomatoes: San Marzano tomatoes are generally considered top notch; Mutti, DeLallo, and Muir Glen are my favorite commonly-available brands. I often use fire-roasted crushed tomatoes for extra flavor, but this is personal preference.
- Fresh basil: For flavor and looks! You can also toss in other fresh herbs if desired, such as oregano, thyme, or parsley.
- Extra-virgin olive oil: A light, fresh olive oil is perfection.
- Minced fresh garlic: So much flavor, pound for pound.
- Dried oregano and red pepper flakes: The red pepper adds only a touch of flavor, and not much heat until you significantly increase the amount. You can always pass more at the table if some people prefer more punch.
Serving this dish over pasta is an obvious and delicious choice, but the shrimp and sauce are also great served alongside bread, rice, zucchini noodles, potatoes, a bed of dark leafy greens, or roasted vegetables.
You can also tuck the shrimp and sauce into torpedo rolls for a fun cross between a meatball sub and a shrimp roll. In this case, just be sure to remove all tails first and consider chopping the cooked shrimp into bite-sized pieces.
Can you use canned whole tomatoes to make marinara?
Yes, canned whole tomatoes can make a great marinara sauce. Substitute a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes for the crushed tomatoes here, and include all juices from the can. Either crush the tomatoes by hand as you add them to the skillet, smash them with a wooden spoon as they cook, or blend them with a traditional or immersion blender before adding the pasta.
How To Make Shrimp in Marinara Sauce
This simple recipe comes together mostly in one skillet, with an extra pot for cooking the pasta, if desired. Here are the steps and a quick visual overview. You will find full instructions with exact ingredients in the print-friendly recipe card below.
- Boil water for pasta first thing–it can cook while you let the sauce simmer away.
- Make the sauce. Place olive oil and garlic in a cold large skillet then set it over medium heat. As soon as the garlic starts to sizzle and smell fragrant, stir in the tomatoes, oregano, red pepper, and sprigs of fresh basil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 15 minutes.
- Add the shrimp. Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper, then add them directly to the sauce about 5 minutes before you want to eat. They will cook directly in the sauce.
- Season to taste. As soon as all the shrimp turn opaque and curl up, remove skillet from the heat and add extra salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately!
Truly it’s all about this homemade marinara. It’s the base of a hundred great meals.
Pro Tip: If you have extra time, let the sauce simmer longer before adding the shrimp. Letting the sauce bubble will deepen and enhance the flavor even more. Cooking longer after adding the shrimp can cause them to quickly become rubbery and dry.
I find that cooking the shrimp directly in the sauce both delivers amazing flavor, and is so easy.
Dinner is served! Fresh basil leaves, fresh Italian parsley, or Parmesan cheese make dreamy finishing touches.
Recipe FAQs & Expert Tips
Can this be made gluten-free?
Yes! Simply serve this over vegetables or your favorite gluten-free pasta and the dish will be naturally gluten-free.
Do you put sugar in homemade marinara?
You can sweeten marinara or any other homemade tomato sauce to offset the tomatoes’ natural acidity, but it’s usually unnecessary if you’re using good quality tomatoes. If you do prefer the extra sweetness, start with just 1/2 teaspoon of granulated white sugar and add more to taste a tiny bit at a time.
Do you remove the tails from shrimp before cooking?
You can but you don’t have to. Although I often leave them on for looks, it is honestly easier to eat shrimp when the tails are already removed. And did you know that you can reuse shrimp tails, whether you remove them prior to cooking or prior to eating? Toss them into a tightly-sealed zip-top bag and place in the freezer then use in shrimp stock whenever you like.
What’s the fastest way to defrost shrimp?
Place frozen shrimp in a large colander, place in the sink, and run them under cold water for about 5 minutes. Shrimp cook so quickly and easily that using hot water to thaw them can actually start the cooking process before you’re ready!
You also can defrost shrimp in the refrigerator overnight or over any roughly 12 hour period.
Storage & Reheating
- Storage: Place any leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator. They will keep well for 3-4 days. (These are our favorite meal-sized fridge storage boxes.)
- Reheating: Warm in the microwave or over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Add a splash of broth or water to help loosen the sauce and minimize sticking. If warming in the microwave, I recommend using 50% power to reduce the odds of the shrimp becoming overcooked and rubbery.
- Freezing: I don’t recommend freezing this recipe!
If you try this Shrimp Marinara Recipe, don’t forget to rate it and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
- 1 pound raw shrimp peeled and deveined
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes see notes 1 and 2
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 2-3 sprigs fresh basil plus more for serving
- 8 ounces pasta see note 3
- Boil a large pot of water and add a generous pinch of salt. Sprinkle shrimp lightly with kosher salt and black pepper; set aside.
- While you wait for the water to boil, begin making the sauce. Place olive oil and garlic in a cold deep skillet, then place the skillet over medium heat. As soon as the garlic starts to sizzle and smell fragrant, stir in the tomatoes, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Nestle in the sprigs of fresh basil. Reduce the heat to low and let sauce simmer for at least 15 minutes.
- While the sauce simmers, add pasta to the boiling water. Cook for 2 minutes less than the package directions say for al dente. Drain and set aside.
- When almost ready to eat, add shrimp to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- As soon as all the shrimp turn opaque and curl up, indicating they are cooked through, remove pan from the heat and take the basil sprigs out of the sauce. Sample a spoonful of sauce or one shrimp; add more salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve right away with more chopped or torn basil leaves and pasta or vegetables, as desired.
- Tomato Quality: Using high-quality tomatoes is important. With so few ingredients, the flavor will really make a difference. San Marzano tomatoes are generally considered top notch; my favorite brands include Mutti, DeLallo, and Muir Glen, which are organic and come in BPA-free cans.
- Tomato Type: You can use whole canned tomatoes in place of crushed. Include all juices from the can. Either crush the tomatoes by hand as you add them to the skillet, or blend them with a traditional or immersion blender before adding the pasta.
- Serving Options: Serving shrimp marinara over pasta is an obvious and delicious choice, but the shrimp and sauce are also great served alongside bread, rice, zoodles, potatoes, a bed of dark leafy greens, or roasted vegetables. You can also tuck the shrimp and sauce into torpedo rolls for a fun cross between a meatball sub and a shrimp roll (just be sure to remove all tails first and consider chopping the shrimp into bite-sized pieces).
- More Vegetables: Toss veggies straight into this pasta for more of a healthy one-pot meal. Craving greens? Add spinach or arugula to the sauce along with the drained pasta. Have some shredded carrots, minced onion, or finely-chopped bell pepper or zucchini? Add those to the sauce along with the tomatoes and let them simmer in there right along with everything else.