This Shrimp and Polenta dish is the perfect seafood dinner recipe for the whole family. Shrimp is sauteed with garlic then cooked with a roasted tomato & thyme sauce. Serve the shrimp and sauce over creamy polenta made with two cheeses and garnish with your favorite herbs.
Ok, now that you had a glimpse of the dish and want to make it, maybe you’re asking yourself:
What Exactly is Polenta?
Polenta is a cornmeal dish that originated in Northern Italy. In Europe, there are so many versions of polenta, sometimes made with grains other than corn. I grew up across the Adriatic from Italy, in Albania and we have a version of polenta (inherited by Turkish cuisine) called kaçamak. Other countries in Balkan, Mediterranean and Eastern Europe have similar dishes.
Modern versions of polenta usually are made of a creamy polenta with some cheese for extra flavor. The cornmeal for polenta comes pre-packaged. Usually this polenta is fast to cook, but needs supervision and whisking until it thickens.
Usually I love to cook polenta and serve right away. So if you’re having guests over, I’d time cooking the polenta right before serving dinner. If you have to cook it a little earlier, I’d add more water than what the package recommends because it thickens as it sits so it won’t have the desired consistency by the time you want to serve.
While polenta and grits are very similar as they’re both made from corn, I feel polenta is a more refined product. It’s definitely a personal choice, so you can use grits if you’re more familiar to grits than polenta.
Roasted Tomato Sauce
While I love to cook, I’m also a busy mom with two vivacious kids. The prospect of cooking the sauce, cooking the shrimp in it, making polenta separately than putting the whole meal together had me a little discouraged. I didn’t want this Sunday meal to take hours to make!!
So I added tomatoes, peppers, red onion and lots of herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking tray and roasted them all together. Once the vegetables cooled down a bit, I added them all to a blender and blended until I got a smooth sauce. You can store the sauce in mason jars in the refrigerator for other meals too (like pasta etc). So it’s definitely a make ahead sauce!!
The other beautiful thing about this sauce is that it doesn’t have to taste the same all the time. I usually add any type of onion I have available. Sometimes I add mini sweet peppers and sometimes green peppers. You can add carrots to make it sweeter or peppercorn or chili to give it a kick. You can make it with just tomatoes and herbs if you don’t have anything else on hand.
So lastly, let’s talk about shrimp. While growing up, I ate shrimp in a restaurant or brought from a fisherman that just docked his boat after fishing. So we had to clean the shrimp, devein and all that. By the time it was cooked and ready to eat, I wasn’t hungry anymore.
Nowadays, I tend to buy shrimp mostly frozen but already clean and deveined, just tail on. Also, I prefer the jumbo size or the bigger the better because they shrink. They look white/grayish. Just thaw before cooking and that’s it!!
So as a last step of preparing the meal, once polenta and sauce are ready. I saute a lot of garlic in olive oil. Once garlic releases its aroma and starts becoming golden on the edges, I add the shrimp in the skillet. I like to pat it down with paper towel beforehand to remove and water from the surface.
Cook shrimp for few minutes on each side, flip once you see the edges becoming pink. Add sauce over once shrimp is cooked on both sides. Let cook few minutes with the sauce in low heat and adjust spices and salt to your taste:). Now your shrimp and sauce is ready to serve over the creamy polenta!!
Tips & Notes
If you’ve made the recipe before, go ahead and skip straight to recipe card below. But if you’re making this dish for the first time, maybe these tips will help you plan the perfect meal:).
- If you don’t like polenta, you can serve this shrimp dish over rice or over mashed potatoes. I occasionally just have the shrimp and sauce with some warm bread and nothing else.
- If you are using precooked shrimp, then skip the saute process. Add the garlic to the other veggies during roasting and blend all together, then cook for few minutes the sauce with shrimp.
- Roasted veggies – as long as you add tomato, herbs, some olive oil and salt and pepper, the rest can vary!! For example, I used mini sweet peppers but you can use bell peppers, cubanelle peppers or any type of peppers.
- Clean the seeds from peppers and cut any green part from the tomatoes. The softer the tomatoes, the better for this roasted tomato sauce.
Shrimp and Polenta
- 1 Blender
Shrimp and Roasted Tomato Sauce
- 3 tomatoes
- 1 red onion
- 1 bell pepper or 4-5 mini peppers
- 1 tsp oregano
- 0.5 tsp Mediterranean Sea Salt
- 10 twigs fresh thyme
- 0.5 tsp pepper
- red pepper flakes and peppercorn optional for spice, add those to taste optional
- 4 tbsps olive oil (divided) extra virgin
- 2 lbs shrimp, raw, peeled, deveined and tail on
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsps fresh parsley, finely chopped for garnish
- 1 cup polenta
- 2.5 cups water
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup grated gruyere cheese
Shrimp and Roasted Tomato Sauce
- Clean tomatoes, de-seed the peppers and roughly chop onion in big pieces. Add veggies to a deep baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil (1-2 tbsps), add salt, pepper and lots of herbs to your taste. In terms of herbs I prefer fresh thyme and dry oregano but you can also add basil, mint, parsley etc. Tip – for spicy sauce add both peppercorn and red pepper flakes.
- Roast the veggies with herbs and olive oil at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes. Let dish cool down for a little bit and set aside. Then transfer everything on a blender and blend until sauce is creamy and smooth.
- Add 1-2 tbsps of olive oil to a skillet, medium heat. Add minced garlic to skillet and cook until aromatic.
- Make sure shrimp is thawed, tap with paper towel on both sides to absorb any water from surface. Add shrimp to garlic and oil and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until shrimp is pink. Then add sauce over shrimp and let the flavors combine for few minutes. Tip – add only half the sauce if you don't like a lot of sauce in your meal. Save the other half for pasta or any meal that uses tomato sauce. It stores well in a mason jar for about a week in the refrigerator.
- Add water and milk to a medium size sauce pot. Once water/milk is hot but hasn't boiled yet, add polenta and lower heat to medium. Whisk slowly, but constantly until polenta thickens.
- Add grated cheese and continue mixing to incorporate, check for salt and adjust as needed. Salt levels change from cheese to cheese.
- Add polenta to plate, then top with shrimp and sauce. Finally garnish with chopped fresh parsley and enjoy:))
- You can make the polenta with just water, water + milk, water+milk+chicken stock etc. Keep liquid levels to this ratio: 1 cup of dry polenta to 3.5 cups of liquid. This ratio works perfectly if you’re serving right away.
- If you’re cooking the polenta a little before serving, then use this ratio: 1 cup polenta with 4 cups liquid.
- Keep in mind that if you add chicken stock, polenta will be very rich, if you add water/milk or water/half and half polenta will be more creamy in texture.
If you would like to save this recipe for later, please save the below image to your boards in Pinterest. Let me know in comments if you have any questions. Feel free to tag me social media with your version of this recipe. Thank you for reading my blog!!
Other Seafood Recipes
I love seafood, it’s pretty typical in the Mediterranean and we consume a wide variety of seafood. If you would like to check out some of my other recipes, please see below some of my recipes. Also if you follow Mediterranean Diet, it’s very easy to adapt seafood recipes to be diet compliant:).
- Baked Whole Red Snapper
- Cast Iron Halibut over Couscous
- Dijon Mustard & Tarragon Salmon
- Shrimp in White Wine Tomato Sauce over Pasta
- Baked Cod Fish Cakes