I Tried Rachael Ray's Dirty Martini Shrimp Pasta—Here's What I Thought

This high-protein dinner idea is even quicker than a 30-Minute Meal.

a side by side of Rachael Ray and EatingWell's Linguine with Lemon Alfredo Shrimp
Photo: Ray: Bonnie Biess/Getty Images. Recipe photo: Photography: Caitlin Bensel, Food Syling: Julia Levy, Prop Styling: Christina Daley.

I've been cooking along with Rachael Ray since late 2001, when her first season of 30-Minute Meals debuted on Food Network. As a then-14-year-old who had been raised on a steady diet of classic Midwestern fare and delivery pizza, the concept of cooking a wide variety of cuisines at home—and in just half an hour—was a really tempting proposition.

Over the next two decades on her original how-to show, her talk show, her cookbooks and her magazine, Ray taught me how to make the first recipe she ever whipped up for her mom (a white lasagna recipe that contains a whole head of cauliflower!), shared a spanakopita frittata that has become one of my go-to meal-prep breakfasts, and taught me about the magical powers of a statement salad.

With another dinner party on the way before a summer trip to Italy, I had my eyes wide open for the dish that might please my crew of friends—and perhaps offer a preview of flavors to come. Once again, Ray delivered with a new entree she recently shared on her talk show. My guests are big gin fans, and one is really focused on cranking up her protein intake, so I figured Dirty Martini Shrimp and Linguine could be the perfect fit.

However, I'm not one to take a crack at a new recipe in front of a crowd without making sure it works for me first. So with a few days to spare before greeting my guests, I took to the kitchen to shake up my pasta routine.

How to Make Rachael Ray's Dirty Martini Shrimp Pasta

Similar to @legallyhealthyblonde's TikTok-trending dirty martini pasta, Ray's quick-and-easy pasta recipe is inspired by the classic cocktail.

"When you see the gin, vermouth and olives in the recipe, it looks like I'm making a martini," Ray says on her talk show website. But it's actually a pasta dinner that "smells so extravagant and delightful, and it's such a simple, silly, fun dish, and it's so delicious."

What sets Ray's recipe apart from its TikTok counterpart is the shrimp, which not only lend more mildly buttery, salty-yet-sweet flavor, but also deliver a low-calorie source of protein along with vitamin B12, zinc, copper, omega-3s and other essential nutrients and antioxidants.

To make it, I took a break at the end of my workday to get a head start on one small step. In a large bowl, I tossed about 20 thawed, deveined medium shrimp with chopped garlic and the juice of one lemon, then popped that in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes or so. I sent off a few more emails, rounded up my ingredients and, right on cue with my timer, I was ready to dive into the rest of the quick meal-prep process.

I filled a large pot about two-thirds full with water, then placed that on the stove to bring to a boil. Once the water was boiling, I salted it per Ray's instructions, dropped the linguine pasta in and cooked it for 1 minute shy of my package instructions; 8 minutes or so.

At the same time, I coated a large skillet with EVOO (naturally), and turned the burner to medium heat. Next came the garlicky shrimp, which I seasoned with salt and a dash of red pepper flakes. I then used a spatula to gently toss the shrimp in the pan so they'd cook evenly and until almost done. This took about 3 minutes.

Before draining the pasta, I used my liquid measuring cup to save about ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. I drained the al dente noodles, then turned my attention back to the skillet to add pitted, chopped olives, a glug of gin, a splash of dry vermouth (a botanical-infused fortified wine) and the secret "dirty" ingredient: 3 tablespoons of olive brine.

I allowed this to reduce for a few minutes, then added a pat of butter and the linguine, which I loosened up with about half of the reserved pasta water as I tossed everything together with tongs.

What I Thought of Rachael Ray's Dirty Martini Shrimp Pasta—and Tips for Making It Your Own

Ray rocked it again. Don't be fooled by the quick cook time and short ingredient list; this dinner delivered major flavor and a beautiful balance of briny, botanical and citrusy qualities. (By the way, not counting the marination step, I had dinner ready in about 20 minutes.) The finished product looked—and tasted—like something I'd order at a restaurant, and I can't wait to share it with my friends alongside a big side salad.

If you, too, decide to give this Dirty Martini Shrimp and Linguine recipe a shot, here are a few suggestions:

  • Thaw ahead. Frozen shrimp would work great here! The night before you plan to cook, simply transfer the shrimp from the freezer to the fridge to allow it to de-ice.
  • Mix up your proteins. If you're not so fond of shrimp, this could easily be adapted to feature drained, rinsed white beans, or canned salmon or tuna. Or you could pair it with a side of grilled salmon, chicken, steak or pork.
  • Use your noodles. Any long cut will do. Choose chickpea pasta, whole-wheat pasta or a gluten-free alternative, if desired.
  • Say cheese. If you order martinis with blue cheese-stuffed olives, a garnish of crumbled blue cheese could make for a fun addition.
  • Pair wisely. While it might sound sacrilegious not to stir up a round of martinis with this dish, I think it would be phenomenal with a citrus-forward wine like sauvignon blanc, French rosé or albariño.

Up next: Rachael Ray Stuffed Peppers with the One Thing We Never Thought of—but Can't Wait to Try

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