Our recipe for Shrimp Fra Diavolo takes a big step into the modern era with the addition of Chinese chili crisp and fresh cilantro. Serve the saucy and spicy shrimp over your favorite pasta (we like orzo) or with large hunks of crusty bread. Just 30 minutes and you’ll be digging into this satisfying and easy meal!
Table of Contents
Our recipe pays homage to the traditional Italian or Italian-American dish (the true origins are murky) with a simple ingredient list of shallots, garlic, tomatoes and of course pepper flakes which gives the sauce the spicy kick it’s known for.
And while it’s not spicy enough to blow your socks off, it does have a kick. If you love heat and want it to light you aflame, add more pepper flakes! If you prefer a more mild spice, start with just ½ teaspoon of pepper flakes.
What is Shrimp Fra Diavolo?
Traditionally, shrimp fra diavolo (pronounced fra-dia-voh-loh), is a spicy tomato sauce served over a bed of linguine and shellfish, most commonly lobster and shrimp (though sometimes clams as well). Diavolo sauce loosely translates to “devil sauce” and gets its spice from red pepper flakes. This rich tomato sauce can be fiery so adjust the amount to your liking.
This isn’t our only spicy pasta sauce—try our reader-favorite Saucy Gochujang Noodles and Spicy Ramen Noodles.
We believe shallots are one of those ingredients that sets restaurant meals apart from home-cooked meals. We’re big believers in putting them to work in the kitchen, so get yourself a large shallot for this recipe. If you can’t find shallots, you can use a white onion instead.
Just a touch of garlic is key to this recipe. And instead of chopping or mincing we’re thinly slicing it. Cooking with sliced garlic adds garlic flavor without its astringency or “kick.”
Anchovies are a workhorse ingredient—adding umami and saltiness to this recipe. Use oil-packed anchovies instead of salt-packed which will add too much salt.
Red pepper flakes
Red pepper flakes are key to making any kind of fra diavolo—which is roughly translated to “among the devil” or “devil sauce.” If you like a lot of heat, feel free to increase the amount of pepper flakes or add some minced red hot chilis to the shallot mixture as it cooks.
You’ll need one 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes. We utilize both the tomatoes and their juices, so don’t drain them! For the best consistency you’ll need to crush the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces.
To crush the tomatoes, you can either use a potato masher, or our preferred way, your hands. Crush each tomato individually as you add it to the skillet. Be careful though, they have a tendency to shoot tomato juice out!
Just a dash of honey balances out the spice from the pepper flakes and the acidity of the tomatoes. You can also use regular cane sugar.
The hero of the recipe! You’ll need 1 ½ pounds medium shrimp (30-45 per pound) that are peeled and deveined. If you have larger shrimp you will need to cook them slightly longer, if you have smaller, cook them less (check out the recipe notes for more details).
If you aren’t near a coast and don’t have the luxury of quality fresh seafood, opt for frozen shrimp but look for products with an ingredient list of jump shrimp (no additives).
Chili crisp is not a traditional ingredient in shrimp fra diavolo, but we like to keep things interesting and that often includes a fusion of cuisines. Look for chili crisp near the Asian sauces and condiments in the grocery store. You can also buy chili crisp online. The addition of chili crisp offers an added bit of spice, crunch, and a lovely punch of garlic flavor.
Fresh cilantro is another non-traditional curveball ingredient. It adds bright freshness and some welcome greenery to this bold, spicy dish. If you don’t like cilantro you can also use parsley.
How to Make Shrimp Fra Diavolo
There are few things as satisfying as a meal that’s stunning and flavorful that also comes together quickly. When you stumble across one it feels like you’ve uncovered a secret. This is one of those recipes! Here’s all you have to do to get this Shrimp Fra Diavolo on the table:
- Cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions.
- Cook a chopped shallot in some oil until softened.
- Add the garlic and some minced anchovies and cook just until starting to brown.
- Add the red pepper flakes and cook briefly, just to bloom the flavor.
- Stir in the canned tomatoes and crush into bite-sized pieces.
- Add a dash of honey and simmer the sauce until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the sauce from heat, stir in the shrimp and let the residual heat of the sauce cook the shrimp gently.
- Top with dollops of chili crisp and handfuls of fresh cilantro and serve.
Test Kitchen Tips
- To make it spicier, increase the amount of red pepper flakes, add more chili crisp at the end, or add minced fresh red hot chilis to the shallot as it cooks.
- For a less-spicy dish, pull back on the red pepper flakes to about ½ teaspoon.
How to Serve
The classic way to serve shrimp fra diavolo is over a bed of linguine. And while it’s classic for a reason, we like to enjoy this recipe with orzo. If you’re looking for something a bit more rustic and laid back—or to serve as an appetizer—serve the saucy shrimp with large hunks of crusty bread, it’s the perfect vehicle to sop up the rich sauce!
To quickly thaw shrimp, dump the frozen shrimp into a bowl and cover the shrimp with cold water. Let the shrimp sit in the water for 10–20 minutes (depending on size) until thawed. We recommend draining and refilling the water a few times—this will speed up the process.
Be sure to use cold water—warm water will change the texture of the shrimp and, not surprisingly, hot water will start to cook the shrimp.
You’ll know the shrimp are thawed when no ice layer remains on the exterior of the shrimp and the shrimp are tender when lightly squeezed.
Fra diavolo and arrabiata are nearly cousins, sharing similar ingredient lists. Both are tomato-based sauces with fiery heat from pepper flakes. Arrabiata often features capers and/or basil (much like Puttanesca) while fra diavolo never contains these. Additionally, arrabiata is generally served over a bed of pasta without the addition of protein while fra diavolo almost always is served with seafood.
Shrimp Fra Diavolo
- Kosher salt
- 1½ cups dry orzo pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large shallot, finely diced (½ cup)
- 2 large cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 oil-packed anchovies, minced
- ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 ½ pounds medium shrimp (30-45), peeled and deveined
- Dollops of chili crisp, such as Fly by Jing or Momofuku
- ⅓ cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Season heavily with salt (2 tablespoons) and stir in pasta; cook to al dente according to package directions. Drain and toss pasta with a drizzle of olive oil; set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan over medium until shimmering.
- Add 1 finely diced shallot and cook until softened, about 3 minutes, seasoned with ¼ teaspoon salt.
- Add 2 cloves sliced garlic and 2 minced anchovies; cook until garlic is golden, 2–3 minutes. Stir in ¾ teaspoon pepper flakes and cook 30 seconds.
- Stir in tomatoes, and their juices, and gently crush tomatoes with a potato masher until crushed into bite-sized pieces (be careful, they like to splatter).
- Bring tomato sauce to simmer then stir in 2 teaspoons honey and season with salt to taste. Simmer 5 minutes.
- Remove sauté pan from heat and stir in shrimp.
- Let sit until shrimp are cooked through and opaque, about 3 minutes.
- Dollop chili crisp over saucy shrimp and sprinkle with cilantro.
- Divide orzo between serving bowls and top with shrimp fra diavolo.
I have not made this, but I will.
It’s everything I crave in nice open bowl with a Chuck of warm rustic bread
Thanks Debora! I can’t wait to hear what you think. Definitely is one of my favorites!