Carbonara pasta is one of the most famous and easy dishes to make in Italian cuisine. The original recipe is made by mixing cooked hot pasta with raw eggs and Parmesan cheese.
What Is Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara?
Carbonara pasta is originally made using guanciale, which is an Italian cured pork product similar to bacon.
It is pan-fried and added to cooked piping hot pasta and a combination of raw egg and Parmesan cheese. The heat from the pasta cooks the egg and makes it take on a creamy consistency.
In America, we know carbonara as a creamy sauce usually made with heavy cream and Parmesan cheese.
Bacon is used instead of guanciale, and it is topped with chicken or shrimp. The popular Olive Garden version is topped with seasoned breadcrumbs and broiled for a couple of minutes.
- Olive oil: extra virgin olive oil is used to marinate the shrimp or chicken, whichever you use.
- Italian seasoning: usually made of oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and sage, it gives this recipe an authentic Italian flavor.
- Shrimp: I love carbonara with shrimp, but you use chicken if you are allergic to shellfish or just like chicken better.
- Butter is, for me, essential in the making of the sauce.
- Onion and garlic. I can barely think of a dish in which I don’t use minced onion and garlic.
- Bacon bits: use real bacon bits. They are widely available.
- All-purpose flour is used to thicken the sauce. You need to cook it for a couple of minutes in the butter, or else the sauce will have an uncooked flour flavor.
- Heavy cream or whipping cream gives the sauce its creamy flavor and texture.
- Milk helps dilute the sauce and make it thinner.
- Parmesan cheese is also used to thicken and flavor the sauce as well as on the topping.
- Linguine or any long pasta of your choice. I like linguine or fettuccine because they are thicker than spaghetti, and the sauce clings to them a lot better.
- Mozzarella cheese makes this dish “cheesy” when melted, but you can skip it if you like.
- Panko breadcrumbs. I love them because they are so much crispier than regular breadcrumbs.
- Sun-dried tomatoes: I think they make this dish so much better. Their taste is amazing, and a little bit goes a long way.
- Parsley: used in a lot of Italian dishes, it not only imparts great flavor but looks good when presenting your dish.
How To Make Olive Garden Chicken or Shrimp Carbonara
- Marinate the shrimp: In a small bowl, combine shrimp, olive oil, Italian seasoning, and garlic. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 mins.
- While the shrimp is marinating, make the sauce: melt butter and saute the minced onion and garlic.
- Add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Using a whisk, mix in the heavy cream and milk until there are no lumps. Add the Parmesan cheese and bacon bits. Let the sauce simmer until it thickens.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. In a medium-sized skillet, cook shrimp for 2 minutes on each side, just until they turn pink.
- Throw the cooked shrimp into the sauce. Drain the pasta and add mix it into the sauce.
- Transfer pasta to an oven-safe dish. Make topping: using a fork, combine Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, panko breadcrumbs, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, melted butter, and parsley.
- Sprinkle topping over pasta and broil until lightly browned and both cheeses are melted.
Store and Reheat Shrimp Pasta Carbonara
This is a tricky one because the sauce will get thicker when the pasta cools down.
Store it in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the fridge. I wouldn’t recommend freezing it.
When reheating, add a bit of chicken stock or water to it before putting it in the microwave oven for a couple of minutes.
- This dish is all about multi-tasking and doing several things at the same time, like cooking the pasta at the same time you make the sauce.
- If you feel you aren’t fast enough, cook the shrimp before making the sauce and set them aside. That way you have them ready when the sauce is completed. They really take no time to cook, but you can do it beforehand.
- Do not overcook the shrimp. Remember you are adding them to the hot sauce, so they will continue to cook afterward.
- It is important that your sauce not be too thick because it will thicken a bit more when the pasta is broiled and as it cools down, so if you feel it is too thick, add a bit of the pasta water to it.
- Watch the pasta carefully when in the oven, the topping can easily burn
OTHER RECIPES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
Olive Garden Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara
FOR THE SHRIMP:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, or 1 lb cubed boneless, skinless chicken breast
FOR THE SAUCE:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons bacon bits
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 1 ½ cups milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound box of linguine or any long pasta
FOR THE TOPPING:
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Marinating the shrimp in olive oil, garlic, and Italian seasoning is the first step. Try to let them marinate for at least 30 minutes. It’s ok if you can’t. This step is not crucial.
- While shrimp is marinating, make the sauce. Melt the butter and saute the minced onion and garlic. Try to mince them as finely as you can, so the sauce is smooth, and nobody gets a big piece of garlic or onion.
- Add the flour and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Even if it clumps up, move it around the pan to cook it, or the sauce will taste of raw flour.
- Pour in the heavy cream and milk and use a whisk to combine everything until there are no more clumps in the sauce. Without a whisk, it is hard to make the sauce smooth.
- Mix the bacon bits and ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese into the sauce. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer just until it thickens up.
- While making the sauce, cook the pasta according to package instructions and save a bit of the cooking water to add to the sauce if you feel it is too thick. Cook pasta al dente, do not let it overcook. Drain and set aside. Add a splash of olive oil to it so it won’t stick.
- Time to cook the shrimp. Heat a medium-sized skillet until hot and add the shrimp with the oil they were marinating in. Cook them for just a couple of minutes on each side.
- Throw the cooked shrimp with any juices left in the pan into the sauce.
- Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and mix to combine.
- Make the topping: mix the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses with the panko breadcrumbs, melted butter, minced garlic, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and chopped parsley.
- Transfer pasta to an oven-safe this, sprinkle topping over it, and broil for about 5 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are slightly brown and the cheeses are melted. Serve immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of pasta can I use for carbonara?
It is usually made using long pasta like spaghetti, fettuccine, or linguine. I prefer the last two because they are a bit thicker and the sauce sticks perfectly to them, but spaghetti is good also.