How to Make Copycat Olive Garden Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara Just Like the Original

This copycat Olive Garden chicken and shrimp carbonara will bring the tasty goodness of the original straight to your kitchen.

We clearly have a thing for replicating Olive Garden recipes at home. From their comforting minestrone soup, richly flavored chicken marsala and succulent shrimp scampi, we’ve been making our way through their top customer favorites.

It’s hard to say which is our favorite, but this copycat Olive Garden chicken and shrimp carbonara might be it! With crispy pieces of juicy chicken and tender shrimp tossed in a rich bacon-infused Parmesan cream sauce with red peppers and al dente pasta, it’s an elegant yet homey dish that’s guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.

Don’t forget to serve it with a batch of the best copycat Olive Garden breadsticks.

How to Make Copycat Olive Garden Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara

ingredients for shrimp carbonara pastaLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

This recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Ingredients

For the Chicken:

  • 3/4 lb chicken breast, butterflied, pounded thin, and cut into 3-inch strips
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

For the Pasta and Sauce:

  • 1 pound spaghetti or bucatini
  • 4-5 pieces thick-cut bacon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Splash of pasta water
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 pound cooked large shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined with tails off*

*Note on Shrimp: We’re using fully cooked shrimp in this recipe to save time and hassle. You can also use raw shrimp in this recipe. Just cook the shrimp and add to the finished pasta before serving.

Step 1: Form assembly line

three small bowls with flour, milk, and bread crumbsLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Gather three large, shallow bowls and line them up on your counter. In the first, place the flour, salt and pepper. In the second, add the milk. In the third bowl, toss together the panko and Parmesan cheese.

Step 2: Bread the chicken

three small bowls with flour, milk and bread crumbs with small pieces of raw chicken in each demonstrating the steps for breading chickenLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Take a piece of chicken and dredge it through the flour. This will prevent your breading from falling off. Then, dip it in the milk before pressing it into the breadcrumb mixture to generously coat on all sides. Set aside on a platter and repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken. Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before cooking.

Step 2: Cook the chicken

frying chicken in a cast iron pan with a plate of uncooked breaded chicken off to the sideLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Heat 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in a skillet (here’s how to choose the right skillet for the job) over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer (roughly 350°F), place 6-8 pieces of chicken into the skillet, making sure to not overcrowd the pan.

Cook on one side until deep golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, and then flip. Continue to cook until the second side is golden, and the chicken is fully cooked, another 3-4 minutes.

Editor’s Tip: Once the chicken hits the oil, resist the urge to shift it around. Let it cook and allow the cheesy breading to toast and caramelize. If you attempt to flip the chicken and it’s sticking to your pan, let it cook for another 30-60 seconds. The chicken should naturally release from the pan once the breading is perfectly golden. Here are more tips for frying chicken.

Step 3: Keep warm

fried chicken on a paper towel and baking sheetLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Remove the chicken to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken. Place the chicken in an oven set to Warm (170°) while you finish the rest of the recipe.

Step 4: Cook the pasta

pasta in a pan, view from aboveLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta, and cook to al dente according to the package directions; usually 8-12 minutes. Drain, set aside.

Editor’s Tip: To keep the pasta warm and prevent it from sticking together while you finish the sauce, toss the cooked pasta with a teaspoon of olive oil, and keep it covered.

Step 5: Cook the bacon

cooking bacon in a cast iron pan, view from aboveLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Meanwhile, start the sauce. Cook the bacon until crisp. Then transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Finely chop.

Step 6: Reduce the cream

making a cream sauce in a cast iron pan, view from aboveLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Discard the bacon grease from the skillet, reserving about 1 tablespoon of bacon fat. Add the heavy cream (which is different than whipping cream) and garlic. Bring to a simmer and let the mixture reduce by half; about 6-8 minutes.

Editor’s Tip: Reducing the cream is key to achieving a thick and creamy sauce. Don’t rush the process. You’ll know the cream is ready when it clings to the back of a wooden spoon.

Step 7: Make it cheesy

small pile of cheese and spices in the cast iron pan of cream sauceLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Add the butter and the Parmesan, stir to melt, then add the reserved chopped bacon and parsley. Stir until smooth, then add 1/4 cup of milk, a splash of reserved pasta water and salt. Return the sauce to a simmer for 1-2 minutes, then turn off the heat.

Editor’s Tip: If the pasta sauce is too thick, add additional pasta water, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.

Step 8: Toss

mixing the pasta, shrimp and other ingredients in the cream sauce in a cast iron panLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

To the pasta sauce, add the cooked pasta, shrimp and roasted red pepper strips. Toss to combine, then fold in the breaded chicken pieces.

Step 9: Serve

shrimp carbonara pasta on a white plate and a forkLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Serve the pasta topped with additional Parmesan cheese and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

Tips for Making Copycat Olive Garden Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara

Why doesn’t this carbonara have eggs?

Wait, isn’t carbonara sauce made with eggs? Yes! A traditional carbonara recipe is made primarily with eggs, Parmesan cheese, hot pasta water, pancetta and pepper.

However, we opted to omit the eggs from our copycat Olive Garden chicken and shrimp carbonara because, after a quick scan of Olive Garden’s allergen information on their website, we learned that their adaptation of this classic Italian recipe doesn’t contain eggs either. What?!

Olive Garden isn’t exactly known for being authentic, so we can’t say we’re surprised their “carbonara” skips this pretty crucial ingredient. It’s a delicious rendition, so we’ll forgive them. Here are more of our favorite carbonara variations to try next!

How can you customize this copycat Olive Garden chicken and shrimp carbonara?

The best part of making copycat restaurant recipes at home is you can modify the dish to suit your tastes, time and budget. This Olive Garden chicken and shrimp carbonara is no different. Here are some of our favorite ways to put a twist on this recipe:

Change the Protein

Skip the fried breaded chicken and instead opt for sliced grilled chicken breasts or even pieces of cooked rotisserie chicken. If you don’t enjoy shrimp, you can swap them for scallops or omit them entirely and go for extra chicken.

Extra Veggies

Load up this easy copycat Olive Garden recipe with color, texture and nutrition with an array of other vegetables. Sauteed bell peppers or mushrooms would be lovely additions. Steamed broccoli or grilled zucchini, like in this summer carbonara, are other tasty options to consider.

Different Pasta

Long spaghetti or bucatini is traditional, but if Olive Garden has taught us anything, it’s that it’s okay to deviate from the classic. Smaller kid-friendly shapes like rotini, penne or farfalle (bow ties) are great for tiny hands. Fettuccine and linguine are other long-cut pasta varieties that would also work well in this recipe.

How should you store copycat Olive Garden chicken and shrimp carbonara?

If you know you won’t consume all of this recipe in one sitting, we recommend storing the pasta sauce separately from the pasta. Use airtight containers for the various components and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days.

To reheat, slowly heat the sauce on the stovetop over medium-low heat, adding a bit of extra milk until the sauce is steaming. Toss with reheated pasta that you’ve warmed separately and serve.

Editor’s Tip: Low and slow is best for dairy-based pasta sauces since they tend to curdle and separate when heated quickly or in the microwave. For this reason, we also don’t recommend freezing this recipe since it can cause the sauce to separate.

Don’t forget to check out our other favorite copycat pasta recipes.

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Lauren Habermehl
Lauren Habermehl is a recipe developer, food photographer and creator of the blog, Frydae. She is a prolific quoter of FRIENDS, lover of weekend DIY projects and procrastinating fitness enthusiast who enjoys exploring the Milwaukee-area with her husband, daughter and ugly mutt named Tyson Doodles.