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Tomato Basil Shrimp and Polenta

4.99 from 66 votes

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This shrimp and polenta recipe is one of our favorite simple dinner ideas, perfect for an elevated weeknight or weekend meal. Flavorful shrimp in a garlicky tomato and basil sauce are served over creamy, cheesy polenta. It’s like shrimp and grits, Italian-style!

A bowl of soft creamy yellow polenta topped with whole shrimp, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.

When it’s time to explore my collection of seafood recipes, I usually turn to my favorite Garlic Butter Shrimp Pasta, a satisfying dish of buttery, garlicky shrimp tangled up with spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine pasta.

But if you’re in the mood for something other than pasta, or cooking for people who are gluten intolerant, this saucy shrimp and polenta hits the sweet spot.

This polenta that has a smooth, creamy texture, with plenty of Parmesan cheese. I’ve perfected the recipe for creamy, cheesy polenta after years of making it.

Together, it’s a perfect meal for a weeknight dinner or a relaxed supper with friends on the weekend, along with a salad and a chilled white wine or rosé.

Ingredients for this recipe

  • Fresh cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
  • Raw shrimp, peeled and deveined. I prefer jumbo size shrimp (16-20 per pound), but extra large (26-30 per pound) or large (31-35 per pound) shrimp are all perfect to use in this recipe. Use thawed frozen shrimp or fresh shrimp.
  • Red bell pepper
  • Garlic cloves
  • Shallot or onion
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Crushed red chili
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse yellow cornmeal (polenta): With its neutral taste and creamy texture, polenta is an ideal landing pad for foods that are saucy, tangy, spicy and garlicky.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh lemon juice or dry white wine
      A bowl of soft creamy yellow polenta topped with whole shrimp, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.

      The sauce is made with extra-virgin olive oil infused with lots of fresh garlic, red bell peppers, tomatoes and crushed red pepper, for a touch of heat.

      Tomato Basil Shrimp and Polenta

      Karen Tedesco
      A quick and tasty dish with saucy tomato-basil served over creamy polenta. This recipe makes an elevated weeknight or weekend dinner with a glass of chilled wine on the side.
      Print Pin
      4.99 from 66 votes
      Prep Time 15 minutes
      Cook Time 30 minutes
      Total Time 45 minutes
      Course Seafood
      Cuisine Italian
      Servings 4 servings

      Ingredients

      For the polenta

      • 5 cups (1 l) water OR use 4 cups water and 1 cup milk for creamier polenta
      • 1 ½ teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
      • 1 cup (160 g) coarse cornmeal
      • 2 tablespoons (30 g) butter or extra-virgin olive oil
      • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving

      For the Shrimp

      • ¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
      • 1 pound (450 g) extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
      • 2 cups (300 g) cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
      • 1 cup (150 g) chopped red bell pepper
      • 2 tablespoons (30 g) finely chopped shallot or onion
      • 2 tablespoons (30 g) grated or pressed garlic, about 3 plump cloves
      • ½-1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper, to taste
      • 2 tablespoons (30 g) fresh lemon juice or dry white wine
      • Kosher salt
      • 2 cups (50 g) fresh basil leaves

      Instructions 

      To make the polenta

      • Bring the water (and milk if using) to a boil in a heavy sauce pan or Dutch oven. Stir in the salt.
      • Gradually sprinkle the polenta into the pan while whisking at the same time. Turn the heat to a very low simmer and cover the pan. Continue to cook the polenta for 25 – 30 minutes, until the polenta is thickened, fluffy and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
      • When the polenta is done, remove from the heat and stir in the butter or olive oil, cheese and season with additional salt if you like.

      To make the shrimp

      • Pour the oil into a 10-12-inch skillet and place over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the shrimp in one layer. Cook until the shrimp begin to turn opaque on the bottom, about 2 minutes.
      • Turn the shrimp over and add the tomatoes, red bell pepper, shallot, garlic, crushed red pepper, lemon juice and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the tomatoes soften and become juicy and the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the basil over the shrimp.
      • Serve the polenta in shallow bowls with the shrimp and sauce spooned over the top. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

      Karen’s Notes and Tips

      • Use jumbo shrimp (16-20 per pound), extra large (26-30 per pound) or large (31-35 per pound) shrimp, either fresh or thawed frozen.
      • Non-dairy option: Substitute an unsweetened plant-based milk such as oat or almond milk in the polenta (or just use all water) and omit the cheese.
      • Meal prep: Make the polenta up to 2 days ahead. To reheat for serving. add 2-3 tablespoons water for each cup of polenta to a saucepan and stir to break up the clumps. Cover the pan and heat over medium-low heat until heated through, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

      Nutrition

      Calories: 518kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 881mg | Potassium: 528mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2292IU | Vitamin C: 73mg | Calcium: 282mg | Iron: 5mg

      Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.

      Did you make this recipe? Mention @Familystylefood or tag #familystylefood on Instagram

      A bowl of soft creamy yellow polenta topped with whole shrimp, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.

      Hey, I’m Karen

      Creator of Familystyle Food

      I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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      22 Comments

      1. 5 stars
        Great served with wedges of lemon. I did not have fresh basil so I used Costco pesto. I also added a couple of hand fills of fresh spinach at the end of cooking to allow it to just wilt. It was so refreshing.

      2. 5 stars
        I used precooked polenta from Trader Joe that I mashed with butter and cashew milk.
        I didn’t have fresh basil, so threw in a generous sprinkling of dried basil with the tomatoes, peppers, etc. Delicious!

      3. Judy. Flammino says:

        5 stars
        Easy and delicious. I used precooked polenta, and had a gourmet meal in 1/2 hour.

      4. 5 stars
        What would you serve as a side dish? Or type of bread?

      5. 5 stars
        Loved this recipe. The only change I made was I used low sodium vegetable broth instead of water since I had an open container in the refrigerator. It gave the polenta a bit more zip but did not overpower the shrimp sauce.

      6. At 73 years I have suddenly developed a shellfish allergy! Can I substitute chicken for the shrimp in the Tomato-Basil Shrimp and Polenta recipe? Or would you suggest another protein?

        1. Hello Gray – Oh, sorry to hear about the allergy! You can substitute the shrimp with an equal weight of diced chicken breast. For a vegetarian version, use diced tofu or a can of cannellini beans.

      7. David Maynard says:

        5 stars
        Tried it tonight for my wife and me. Easy, tasty, what more could person want!

      8. pat thomas says:

        i’m going to try this tonight- it sounds excellent! thank you so much

      9. 5 stars
        This is one of those few recipes that actually take very little time and are delicious without needing to modify the recipe. Super simple and can have dinner on the table in 30 mins start to finish, including prep. This is a go to recipe and my toddler even loves it.

      10. Oh my wow! Such deliciousness! I love polenta and shrimp combination! This is so good!

      11. Wow this looks so gorgeous and sounds beyond delicious. I love polenta – it’s so healthy and completely forgotten dish. I haven’t eat polenta in a while, so this came as a good reminder. I just saved this recipe and will make it this week. Can’t wait.

      12. Looks so yummy! I’m saving this recipe for when my basil plants are big. Will be a great way to use my garden tomato too. Seriously can’t wait for summer to get here!

      13. Wow, the polenta looks so creamy. I never feel comfortable cooking polenta, we tried a couple of times and it has always been a failure. I will follow this recipe next time! thank you for sharing!

      14. Jenny Graves says:

        What a lovely recipe. Very easy and quick and a real treat. The whole family loved it!

      15. I adore Polenta and Shrimp together! What I have never had is your combination of flavors , I adore it. The fresh basil is such a nice touch. I have a bunch of basil that needs to be trimmed back, this is what I am making.

      16. So creamy and delicious! This is a great go-to quick meal! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

      17. I had never seen shrimp paired to polenta, but it looks absolutely delicious! Juicy shrimp, tasty basil sauce, creamy polenta, yum!

      18. This tomato basil Shrimp and Polenta is perfect! I really love seafood and this will be perfect for our dinner tonight.

      19. The creamy and delicious polenta paired perfectly with the shrimp! So delicious.

      20. I have some shrimp in the freezer. I have polenta in the cupboard. This looks like a great recipe for dinner one night this week.