Italian Style Shrimp and Grits

October 26, 2018 By Cathy — 6 Comments
You’re going to love this Italian spin on the southern classic shrimp and grits. I’ve topped creamy parmesan polenta with crunchy cornmeal crusted shrimp and a zesty tomato sauce. Pure cozy comfort in a bowl.

Italian Style Shrimp and Grits

This dish is my version of “shrimp and grits“, but with an Italian spin. I pair cornmeal crusted shrimp and rich, creamy polenta with a zesty tomato sauce flecked with pancetta. Though it’s not technically grits (it’s polenta), it is inspired by one of my favorite southern dishes.

The creamiest, most gorgeous (yes, gorgeous) polenta is topped with a flavorful tomato sauce and tender shrimp coated with crunchy cornmeal. It’s as if my Italian grandma lived in the south! The richness from the tomato paste in the sauce is balanced with the salty savoriness of the pancetta and the shrimp are impossibly tender and tasty thanks to a quick soak in a well-seasoned marinade.

Let’s make Italian Style Shrimp and Grits

First, things first! We need to get the polenta on and while it cooks, we can finish the dish.

  1. Combine milk, stock and salt in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Reduce the heat and slowly pour the cornmeal in while steadily whisking. Cook, uncovered over very low heat, for about 40 mins, stirring frequently.
  3. Stir in the butter and cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the polenta cooks (and you’re faithfully stirring), let’s make the tomato sauce and shrimp.

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the sugar, seasonings, and olive oil. Add the shrimp and toss well to combine. Let it marinate at room temperature for 20 mins while you make the sauce.
  2. Cook the pancetta, remove to a plate, but keep the grease in the pan.
  3. Sauté the shallot and garlic.
  4. Add the flour, then the tomato paste.
  5. Whisk in the wine, stock, season and reduce. Stir in the butter and reserved pancetta.
  6. Keep the sauce warm over low heat while you cook the shrimp (and keep stirring that potenta!).
  7. Remove the shrimp from the marinade, gently shake them off before tossing them into the cornmeal. Evenly coat the shrimp in cornmeal and set aside.
  8. Sauté the shrimp in canola oil over high heat. Cook for about 2 mins, flip, then cook another 2 mins or until fully cooked. To serve, spoon the polenta into a bowl and top with a couple spoonfuls of sauce. Top with shirmp and sprinkle with parsley and scallions.

Italian Style Shrimp and Grits

Tips for success

  • This dish is all about timing. Start cooking the polenta first, and while it cooks (over very low heat), tackle the sauce, then the shrimp.
  • Stir, stir, and then stir the polenta some more. The goal is smooth and creamy polenta. Stirring frequently prevents it from sticking, burning, or becoming lumpy.
  • The marinade not only imparts tons of flavor into the shrimp, it helps to tenderize it and keep it from becoming rubbery when it cooks.
  • Plate and serve immediately when the shrimp is cooked. If the polenta is done first, cover tightly, and turn off the heat.

Italian Style Shrimp and Grits

5 from 1 vote
Close up of Italian Style Shrimp and Grits in a white bowl sprinkled with parsley and scallions.
Italian Style Shrimp and Grits
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr 15 mins
 

You're going to love this Italian spin on the southern classic shrimp and grits. I've topped creamy parmesan polenta with crunchy cornmeal crusted shrimp and a zesty tomato sauce. Pure cozy comfort in a bowl.

Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: shrimp and grits
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 707 kcal
Ingredients
Creamy Polenta
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Shrimp and Sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • Canola oil for frying
  • 2 oz pancetta, small diced
  • 1 large shallot, minced (1/4 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp AP flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped
Instructions
Creamy Polenta
  1. Combine milk, stock and salt in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.

  2. Reduce the heat and slowly pour the cornmeal in while steadily whisking. Cook, uncovered over very low heat, for about 40 mins, stirring frequently.

  3. Stir in the butter and cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Shrimp and Tomato Sauce
  1. Make the shrimp and sauce while the polenta cooks. In a medium bowl whisk together the sugar, salt, paprika, garlic powder, lemon zest, cayenne, black pepper and olive oil. Add the shrimp and toss well to combine.

  2. Let the shrimp sit in the marinade at room temperature for about 20 mins. 

  3. Place a large saute pan over med/high heat and cook the pancetta until browned. Remove the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate, but don't remove the grease from the pan.
  4. Add the shallot and garlic to the pan and cook for about 3 mins until soft. Stir in the flour and cook for about 2 mins, then add the tomato paste and continue to cooke another 1-2 mins while stirring.
  5. Whisk in the wine and then the stock. Season with salt and pepper and allow the sauce to reduce by a third. Whisk in the butter and stir in the reserved pancetta.
  6. Keep the sauce warm over low heat while you cook the shrimp. Remove the shrimp from the marinade, gently shake them off before tossing them into the cornmeal. Evenly coat the shrimp in cornmeal and set aside.

  7. Heat the canola oil in a large non-stick skillet until shimmering. Add the shrimp, but don't crowd the pan. Cook it in two batches if necessary.
  8. Cook the shrimp until golden brown on one side, about 2 mins, then flip. Cook on the other side until golden brown, an additional 2-3 mins. Remove to paper towel-lined plate to drain.

To Serve
  1. Spoon the polenta into a bowl and top with a couple spoonfuls of sauce. Top with shirmp and sprinkle with parsley and scallions.

Recipe Notes
  • This dish is all about timing. Start cooking the polenta first, and while it cooks (over very low heat), tackle the sauce, then the shrimp.
  • Stir, stir, and then stir the polenta some more. The goal is smooth and creamy polenta. Stirring frequently prevents it from sticking, burning, or becoming lumpy.
  • The marinade not only imparts tons of flavor into the shrimp, it helps to tenderize it and keep it from becoming rubbery when it cooks. 
  • Plate and serve immediately when the shrimp is cooked. If the polenta is done first, cover tightly, and turn off the heat. 
Nutrition Facts
Italian Style Shrimp and Grits
Amount Per Serving
Calories 707 Calories from Fat 297
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 33g 51%
Saturated Fat 12g 60%
Cholesterol 238mg 79%
Sodium 1985mg 83%
Potassium 660mg 19%
Total Carbohydrates 64g 21%
Dietary Fiber 6g 24%
Sugars 9g
Protein 32g 64%
Vitamin A 14%
Vitamin C 8.3%
Calcium 26.3%
Iron 25.3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Update Notes: This post was originally published in February 2017 but was republished with step-by-step photos and tips in October 2018.

Italian Style Shrimp and Grits

Related Post

Filed Under: Main Dishes, Recipe, Seafood

Comments

6 responses to “Italian Style Shrimp and Grits”

  1. Cindy says:

    Gulp. I was nearly in tears on this one.. Poor guy! I was swept away with the part of how you just sat and listened to him… you didn’t have all the answers. How wise (and difficult). Gosh, I have so much to learn as my boys are soooo young. And, yes the grits look amazing too! Steves and I went to the South for New Years and we crave some great southern recipes. Thank you.

    • Cathy says:

      Never a dull moment Cindy, but he’s a toughie. We’re heading down south in April and you know what I’ll be ordering!

  2. Aww, your poor baby. It is so hard to be 12 without hives so I can only imagine what he must be going through. I know what you are saying though – Grit – it’s hard to teach but so important to have grit. If you haven’t read the book “Grit” you must go get it! You would love it. It sounds like you are handling this just right with compassion and love but also letting him know that he is lucky in so many ways. I will pray that he gets into that treatment program. Oh and he’s so lucky to have a mom who is such a good cook. The crust on the shrimp looks delicious!

    • Cathy says:

      I don’t know that book – I absolutely have to get it! Thanks for your kind words Karen…hopefully the worst is behind him. xo

  3. Oh Cathy, I’m so sorry. I hope the new treatment works. I can imagine how frustrated you all are, especially your son. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
    I know I’m going to really love this Italian version of shrimp and grits, (one of my southern faves)! Can’t wait to try!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *