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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
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
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*
Fat 33g51%
Saturated Fat 12g75%
Cholesterol 238mg79%
Sodium 1985mg86%
Potassium 660mg19%
Carbohydrates 64g21%
Fiber 6g25%
Sugar 9g10%
Protein 32g64%
Vitamin A 700IU14%
Vitamin C 6.8mg8%
Calcium 263mg26%
Iron 4.6mg26%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.