From America's Test Kitchen Season 10: Who Wants Pasta?
In theory, garlic shrimp pasta has all the makings of an ideal weeknight meal—just toss a few quick-cooking ingredients with boiled pasta. In reality, delicate shrimp cooks fast, which translates to overcooked in a matter of seconds. Meanwhile, garlic can become overbearing or bitter, depending on how it’s treated. Add to that the challenge of getting a brothy sauce to coat the pasta, and this simple recipe turns into a precarious balancing act. We wanted it all: al dente pasta and moist shrimp bound by a supple sauce infused with a deep garlic flavor. For the best flavor and texture, we prefer to buy individually quick-frozen shrimp and thaw them ourselves. We settled on extra-large shrimp and marinated them with minced garlic before a quick sauté in garlic oil (olive oil we simmered with smashed garlic cloves). We also cut each shrimp into thirds before cooking to ensure that every bite of pasta had a tasty morsel of shrimp. With sweet low notes from the infused oil and brasher high notes from the minced garlic, we finally had a balanced, deeply layered garlic flavor. As for the sauce, to deglaze the pan, tasters preferred the clean taste of vermouth or white wine; bottled clam broth added complexity to the sauce. Using a chunky tubular pasta instead of traditional linguine made it easy to find the shrimp. To get the sauce to cling to the pasta, we simply stirred flour into the oil as a thickener just before adding the vermouth and clam juice and tossed in some cold butter to finish.
Marinate the shrimp while you prepare the remaining ingredients.