Between dips, nachos, and an assortment of crostini, it's hard for me to say what my signature appetizer is. However, the other day when I was discussing this with my sister, she said, "I know what your signature appetizer is: it's gambas!"

She was referring to gambas al ajillo, the classic Spanish tapa that combines sizzling pink shrimp with spicy, garlicky olive oil. It's always served with bread for mopping, meaning it's a dish that's somewhere between a dip and crostini. I quickly realized she was right: garlic shrimp are my signature appetizer.

I've made them more times than I could ever remember, and when I don't know what to serve, I always turn to the succulent gambas. It's a super easy, simple recipe that comes together quickly, so I highly recommend you add it to your arsenal. For my rendition of Spain's most flavorful and famous shrimp,


Gambas al Ajillo

Gambas al Ajillo


10 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (also known as Pimenton)
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
crusty bread or crostini, optional for serving


  1. Place the garlic cloves in a food processor. Using the pulse button, chop the garlic until finely minced.
  2. Transfer the garlic to an oven-safe dish (preferably a cazuela). Add the olive oil, red pepper flakes, and paprika. Stir to combine. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the dish with the olive oil and garlic mixture in the oven. Heat for 4-5 minutes until the oil is hot and the garlic is starting to be fragrant.
  4. Add the shrimp and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Flip the shrimp and baste with the oil. Continue cooking until the shrimp is plump and pink, 3-4 minutes more.
  6. Serve immediately with crusty bread or crostini for mopping. Enjoy!

Serves 6-8.

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