Shrimp and Polenta –

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Shrimp and Grits – a Southern cousin?

Shrimp Polenta-1

Buon giorno!

There is something about spring that makes me think brunch! Folks are starting to entertain again after the winter doldrums. They are looking for lighter dishes. They even begin to think of – dare I say it? – eating outside!

Shrimp and Grits is one of the traditional dishes of the American South. It is always on brunch menus and there are a gazillion ways to make it. It is the “southern cousin” to Italian SHRIMP AND POLENTA. And yes – if your weather permits, by all means, get thee to the patio with this one!

Living in the South, we have come to know grits as a staple. They eat grits with everything. Likewise, Italians regard their polenta just as highly and serve it so many different ways. To learn more about polenta visit my posts: Serving Polenta and Polenta – It’s So Corny.  You can find Italian polenta at many grocers and markets now. It is easy to make and “instant “, unlike the old days when you had to stir it for hours. You can just follow your package directions, and your resulting polenta should be very good. In the posts I recommended, you’ll see that I like to add a special ingredient, near the end of preparation, to my polenta – mascarpone cheese (Italian cream cheese). No matter which brand or package of polenta you choose, you can add the mascarpone right before serving. It definitely makes a difference. Your polenta will be richer and creamier, if you add this lovely creamy cheese. (And YOU will be happy you did!)

This is one dish that cooks up very quickly. You can make it ahead if you like, but it is so easy and quick to make that I never mind preparing it just before I need it. It is better, I think, freshly prepared.

Get those Bellinis and Proseccos poured – here it comes!


Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes approx.


Polenta – any type or package you prefer – prepared according to package instructions or as described here.

1/4 C. Mascarpone Cheese stirred into the polenta – recommended

1/3 C. Pancetta – chopped

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Bulb Fennel – cleaned and sliced

1 – 1 1/4 lb. Large Fresh Shrimp – cleaned and shells removed

1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

1/2 C. Dry Vermouth

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

3 Tbsp. Fresh Chopped Tarragon

Juice of 1/2 Fresh Orange

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. Butter

Garnish with Fresh Tarragon and some grated Orange Zest


Prepare your shrimp before your polenta. Instant polenta cooks quickly – I like mine made just before serving.

Cook your chopped pancetta in the olive oil in a large fry pan for 3-4 minutes.

Add the fennel and cook a couple of minutes more.

Shrimp and Polenta 1

Add your tomato paste to the vermouth and dissolve.

Then add the shrimp, garlic, tarragon, orange juice. Toss a little while your heat is medium high.

Shrimp and Polenta 2

Add the wine with the paste dissolved in it. Stir and let the shrimp cook through and the liquid cook down by about 1/2. This should take just a few minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Be sure to taste for seasoning.

Shrimp and Polenta 3

At the end, add the butter and let it melt in, stirring into the sauce.

Shrimp and Polenta 4

Prepare your polenta according to package directions with the addition of the Mascarpone at the end.

Spoon the polenta on each plate and top with shrimp and sauce.

Garnish with fresh tarragon and grated orange zest.


I recommend serving your SHRIMP AND POLENTA with a crisp dry white wine like Falanghina! (Terradora di Paolo is a good one!) Prosecco is always nice as well.


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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  1. Elaine C. says:

    My husbnd and I are not great fans of tarragon. What herb would you suggest substituting for the herb that would be complimentary?