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Succulent shrimp over polenta channels the tradition of Veneto’s simple foods
Milk Street Bowtie Polenta with Shrimp and Tomatoes

Polenta with Shrimp and Tomatoes

Appears in May-June 2021

1¼ hours

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Polenta with Shrimp and Tomatoes

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Polenta e schie, a specialty of Venice, Italy, is polenta topped with tiny local shrimp called schie. The dish typically is a minimalist, sauce-free marriage of corn and crustacean, but Michela Tasca, owner of Ca’ de Memi farm and bed and breakfast in Piombino Dese, just north of Venice, taught us a version in which the schie are poached in a simple tomato sauce accented with garlic and fresh herbs. Our version uses the large shrimp available in the U.S. in place of the schie. We simmer the polenta in the oven; the gentle, even heat obviates the need for frequent stirring. This means that while the polenta cooks, you’re free to prep the other ingredients. Be sure to use coarse stoneground cornmeal; fine cornmeal produces gluey polenta, and steel-ground cornmeal lacks flavor. If juicy, ripe tomatoes are not available, look for cocktail or Campari tomatoes, as we find them to be dependably good no matter the season.

6

Servings

Tip

Don’t begin cooking the shrimp until the polenta is done. In the covered pan or pot, the polenta will remain hot for the short amount of time it takes to cook the shrimp and tomatoes. Don’t worry if the shrimp are only parcooked after their quick sear. They’ll finish cooking when they simmer with the tomatoes for a couple of minutes.

1¼ hours

1 cup coarse stoneground yellow cornmeal
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1½ pounds extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (tails removed) and deveined
4 large garlic cloves, 2 finely grated, 2 smashed and peeled, reserved separately
1½ pounds ripe tomatoes (see headnote), cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup chopped fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley
Ingredients
  • 1

    cup coarse stoneground yellow cornmeal

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 4

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • pounds extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (tails removed) and deveined

  • 4

    large garlic cloves, 2 finely grated, 2 smashed and peeled, reserved separately

  • pounds ripe tomatoes (see headnote), cored and cut into 1-inch chunks

  • ½

    teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • ½

    cup chopped fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley

Directions
  1. 01
    Heat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. In a large oven-safe saucepan or small (4- to 5-quart) Dutch oven, combine the cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt and 5½ cups water, then whisk to combine.Bring to a gentle simmer over medium, stirring often, then place uncovered in the oven and cook for 45 minutes.
    See Demo
    polenta-shrimp-tomatoes-step-1
  2. 02
    Remove from the oven, whisk the polenta, then return, still uncovered, to the oven. Cook until the polenta is thick and creamy, another 15 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, whisk until smooth, cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and black pepper, then cover and set aside while you cook the shrimp.
    See Demo
    polenta-shrimp-tomatoes-step-2
  3. 03
    In a medium bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon of oil, the grated garlic and ½ teaspoon salt. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add half of the shrimp in a single layer and cook until browned on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate. Cook the remaining shrimp in the same way using the residual oil in the pan.
    See Demo
    polenta-shrimp-tomatoes-step-3
  4. 04
    Set the now-empty skillet over medium, add the smashed garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 2 minutes.Add the tomatoes, pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to soften and release their juices, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the shrimp with accumulated juices and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Off heat, remove and discard the garlic cloves and stir in the basil, then taste and season with salt and pepper.
    See Demo
    polenta-shrimp-tomatoes-step-4
  5. 05
    Whisk the polenta to smooth it out, adding water as needed to thin. Divide the polenta among individual bowls, then spoon on the shrimp-tomato mixture.
    See Demo
    polenta-shrimp-tomatoes-step-5
Tip: Don’t begin cooking the shrimp until the polenta is done. In the covered pan or pot, the polenta will remain hot for the short amount of time it takes to cook the shrimp and tomatoes. Don’t worry if the shrimp are only parcooked after their quick sear. They’ll finish cooking when they simmer with the tomatoes for a couple of minutes.
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Reviews
Michael D.
July 30, 2022
Try with fried polenta
I made this dish when everyone else in the house was sick because I had already thawed the shrimp. Well, that turned out amazing because we used the Milk Street fried polenta recipe with the left overs and the crispy polenta paired perfectly with the shrimp and tomatoes. It's my partner's new favorite and she doesn't realize it was supposed to be fresh polenta!
Paul G.
June 26, 2022
What’s wrong with my polenta?
The flavor for this dish was fantastic but I couldn’t get the polenta right. I increased the polenta to 1.5x and used 8 cups of water instead of 8.25. Despite increasing the oven cooking time by up to 20 minutes, the polenta never thickened to what I call the mounding stage (think soft peaks). By that time the small humans in my life needed their supper so I decided to serve. How could I do this differently to get the results I wanted?
Roger E.

Isn't this just shrimp and grits with a slightly fancier name?

Cynthia T.

Can’t wait to try this recipe.love the idea of cooking polenta in the oven.
Leaves time to make a salad & set a table,thank you👏😋

Jo Ann K.

Good flavors. I used Campari tomatoes and Anson Mills polenta (happen to have it--next time I will use my Anson Mills yellow corn meal). Might be the best shrimp and grits I've ever had. Or else the restaurants I have it at just don't try hard enough. Not too hard for a special meal.

Jennifer B.

Really fabulous flavor. Next time will double the polenta to soak up the delicious sauce.


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Polenta with Shrimp and Tomatoes

Get Ready to Cook

6

Servings

1¼ hours

Tip

Don’t begin cooking the shrimp until the polenta is done. In the covered pan or pot, the polenta will remain hot for the short amount of time it takes to cook the shrimp and tomatoes. Don’t worry if the shrimp are only parcooked after their quick sear. They’ll finish cooking when they simmer with the tomatoes for a couple of minutes.

Ingredients
  • 1

    cup coarse stoneground yellow cornmeal

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 4

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • pounds extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (tails removed) and deveined

  • 4

    large garlic cloves, 2 finely grated, 2 smashed and peeled, reserved separately

  • pounds ripe tomatoes (see headnote), cored and cut into 1-inch chunks

  • ½

    teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • ½

    cup chopped fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley

Step 1 of 5

Prepare Oven and Polenta

1
cup coarse stoneground yellow cornmeal
Kosher salt

Heat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. In a large oven-safe saucepan or small (4- to 5-quart) Dutch oven, combine the cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt and 5½ cups water, then whisk to combine.


Bring to a gentle simmer over medium, stirring often, then place uncovered in the oven and cook for 45 minutes.

Step 2 of 5

Cook Polenta

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Remove from the oven, whisk the polenta, then return, still uncovered, to the oven. Cook until the polenta is thick and creamy, another 15 to 30 minutes.


Remove from the oven, whisk until smooth, cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and black pepper, then cover and set aside while you cook the shrimp.

Step 3 of 5

Season and Cook Shrimp

4
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2
large garlic cloves, finely grated
Kosher salt
pounds extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (tails removed) and deveined

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon of oil, the grated garlic and ½ teaspoon salt. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil until shimmering.


Add half of the shrimp in a single layer and cook until browned on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate. Cook the remaining shrimp in the same way using the residual oil in the pan.

Step 4 of 5

Create Sauce

2
large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
pounds ripe tomatoes (see headnote), cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
½
teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
½
cup chopped fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley

Set the now-empty skillet over medium, add the smashed garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 2 minutes.


Add the tomatoes, pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to soften and release their juices, 2 to 3 minutes.


Stir in the shrimp with accumulated juices and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Off heat, remove and discard the garlic cloves and stir in the basil, then taste and season with salt and pepper.

Step 5 of 5

Finish and Serve

Whisk the polenta to smooth it out, adding water as needed to thin. Divide the polenta among individual bowls, then spoon on the shrimp-tomato mixture.

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