Shrimp-on-the-Skimp Barnacle Soup




This is a penny-pinching seafood pasta dish that is sure to bring warmth to your table, making your family and friends feel extra special.

Call me Ishmael… Actually, please, just call me Kim. (I was just trying to get everyone into the seafaring mood, but I’ll digress before one of us-- eh hemm-- gets into plagiarism suits, instead.) Now, whether you’re curling up with a good book on a rainy day, enjoying a crackling fire while watching the snow, or making memories around a table with family and friends, this dish will be sure to bring a special warmth to your home. And, the best part is, it is both very simple and relatively cheap to make—hence its name. Since my college days, my idea of puttin’ on the Ritz has been topping a cracker a calling it an horderve. I do love good food, but feel rude eating fine meals in front of my wallet… as, it is forever on a diet. So, over the years, I’ve learned to compromise. I am happy to say that this will feed a family of 4 for under $10.

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Step 1: Gather Ingredients / Tools

First, you will need to gather your ingredients and tools. While you will also need a stove and a sink, I would advise leaving them right where they are-- otherwise, lift with your legs. ;)


  • 3 cups of orecchiette pasta
  • 5 quarts water (for boiling pasta)
  • 1 ½ -2 cups of small, peeled shrimp
  • 1 cup of imitation crabmeat, chopped
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • dash of salt


  • large pot
  • medium saucepan
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • colander
  • knife / cutting board
  • spoon

Note: None of these measurements need to be exact. This is a very flexible guideline, which can certainly be adjusted.

Step 2: Remove Cat

Remember, cats do love seafood, so chances are he/ she has ventured his/her way into the kitchen by now. If you don’t own a cat or have trained yours to watch patiently from the sidelines, continue to step 3. ;)

Step 3: Add the Golden Goodness

In a medium saucepan, melt about 1 tablespoon of butter on low. Add about 1 ½ to 2 cups of small, peeled shrimp (thawed, if frozen) and stir until they are coated in the golden goodness. Simmer on low.

Note: For healthier options, you can forgo the butter, but my southern side wouldn’t advise it. I actually probably add a bit more, but don't tell my nutritionist.

Step 4: Chop, Chop...

Chop the imitation crab meat into about half inch pieces. (If you look carefully in the reflection of the knife, you can see that I skipped step 2.) Add to saucepan with buttered shrimp. Continue to simmer on low, giving everything a good stir until everything is coated. Don't worry about the crab meat falling apart. This actually helps to incorporate it better into the dish.

Note: You can certainly use the "real deal" in this step, but, since this is "shrimp-on-the-skimp," imitation will help to make your dish -- and not your wallet-- a bit more crabby.

Step 5: Spice Things Up

Next, add about 4 cups of chicken broth to the buttered seafood mixture. Stir. Add about a ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, 1 tablespoon of parsley, and a pinch of salt. Cover and allow to simmer on medium-low.

(Note: The seasonings are all optional and can certainly be adjusted to taste or even substituted entirely. In the past, I’ve substituted Italian seasoning, lemon pepper, and a number of other variations, but this is the combination that I personally like best. I also like a lot of pepper, but not everyone’s a fan, so I usually add extra to my own bowl.)

Step 6: Add the "Barnacles"

In a large pot, bring about 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of olive oil (optional). Next, pour in about 3 or 4 cups of orecchiette pasta. Reduce heat to medium and allow to boil for 4-5 minutes.

Note: This short time allows the pasta to begin the cooking process, while allowing you to remove some of the starchiness from the dish. If you prefer, you can skip this and cook the pasta directly in the chicken broth until desired.I'd like to also note that is a unique, sturdy little pasta that always reminded me of what I had imagined “barnacles” to look like as a kid. Due to their shape, they also have suction-like properties, and thus have tendencies to cling to the pot and bowl, making them a bit more “fun” than your typical pasta. You can substitute with small shells to continue the theme or any other pasta that you wish, but just remember to adjust according to the delicacy of the pasta.


Step 7: Drain Pasta

Remove pasta from heat and drain in colander. Give the pot a quick rinse and place the drained pasta back inside. Return to stove.

Step 8: Combine the Seafood Medley

Pour the contents of the saucepan over the pasta, combining them all in the large pot. Stir. Cover and allow to simmer on low for about 10-15 minutes, depending on how well-done you prefer your pasta. Stir occasionally.

Note: For this dish, I prefer the pasta to be well done, so I choose to let it stew for a while, absorbing most of the broth and all of the wonderful flavors.

Step 9: Serve and Enjoy!

Remove from heat, spoon into bowls, serve to awaiting family and friends, and ENJOY!

Note: As an option, you can "dress to impress" by garnishing with chopped parsley (dried or fresh). I’ve also used toasted (seasoned) bread crumbs, as well as crushed croutons in the past. As this is a very basic version-- with a mild, subtle flavor-- the possibilities are endless.

Step 10: Feed the Cat.

He's been patient. ;) Again, if you don't have a cat, skip this step... or considering adopting from your local shelter.

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    8 Discussions


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks! :) I'd put some in the mail, but I'm guessing that the post office would be real sticklers when it came to shipping seafood... as would the FDA. ;) haha


    2 years ago

    My dogs and I are absolutely doing this over the weekend. Thanks! As a side note, have you ever thought about writing for You've got the tone and humor for it.

    1 reply

    Perfect! Dogs can certainly be substituted for cats in this instructable, or any other pet, for that matter... though, it might be a bit traumatic for hermit crabs. In that case, they may not appreciate the old saying, "Imitation is the best form of flattery." As for, I've never seen it before, but "cracked," probably describes me very accurately. Thanks! I'll check it out. I'm just glad to have found this website after all of these years. :)


    2 years ago

    Now this looks awesome! perfect for the wife and I, don't have to worry about sharing with the kids! (who don't like seafood). Thanks!

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    I hope you both enjoy it! Maybe you can make the kids some "barnacle" mac-and-cheese, instead. Throw in some pirate jokes, and you "ARRrrrrrrrre" all set for the evening! :)


    2 years ago

    The soup looks delicious! Your kitty is adorable :)

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Awww! Thanks! Oliver was a stray. Now, he's my shadow. ;)