Polenta with Shrimp and Cherry Tomatoes

Yes, the cherry tomatoes are still coming strong, and this dish is a perfect accompaniment to shrimp atop a lovey batch of polenta, otherwise known almost affectionately as cornmeal mush in New England!

First, the cornmeal

The cornmeal is definitely half the main act here. Creamy and full of corn flavor, polenta makes a wonderful base for countless toppings. Look for stone-ground meal, a medium grind for this use, and always organic to avoid roundup-ready genetically modified corn! I buy my cornmeal in bulk at the co-op, and it is high quality and quite reasonably priced.

A quick stock makes the difference

To intensify the shrimp flavor in the polenta, make a flavorful stock with the shells from your shrimp. It takes just 20 minutes of simmering, almost no hands on work, and is worth that extra step.

The anchovies are important to this dish, so don’t leave them out. They will disappear into the sauce, but enhance the flavor of everything else.

Invite some friends

Quick, easy, and very satisfying, but delicious and pretty enough for company, so make a double batch and invite some friends!

Make a little extra polenta, place it in a buttered loaf pan, and in the morning cut it into squares and fry it up for breakfast! Mom used to cook it in her cast-iron frying pan in bacon grease, but you can use any oil you like.

If you want to make this without the wine, just substitute shrimp stock and a teaspoon of white wine vinegar.

Polenta with Shrimp and Cherry Tomatoes

  • 1 cup medium-grind organic stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 quart shrimp-shell stock (you’ll create)
  • 1 lb. medium wild-caught shrimp, save shells for stock
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4 or 5 oil-packed anchovies, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. crushed fennel seed
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved 
  • ¼ cup roughly torn fresh basil
  • 1 cup light coconut milk, gently warmed
  • Parmesan or vegan Parmesan to garnish

Peel and devein shrimp. Place the shrimp in the refrigerator, and the shells in a stock pot with five cups of water, a bit of salt, a bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain.

In a large saucepan, bring one quart of the shrimp stock to a boil. Sprinkle the cornmeal in a little at a time, whisking all the while so it does not clump. Once all the cornmeal is whisked in, reduce the heat and whisk every now and then to keep it from sticking. This will take between 25 and 40 minutes to cook depending on the variety and coarseness of grind. If it starts to get too thick before it is cooked (smooth in texture and not gritty) add a bit of water. Taste for salt.

While the polenta is cooking, heat a large skillet and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the shallots, garlic, anchovies, and fennel seed and stir until fragrant, just a minute or so. Add the white wine and cook until reduced by half, then dump in the cherry tomatoes and basil.

Continue cooking until the tomatoes just start to burst, then add the shrimp. Cook for about five minutes, or until the shrimp is pink and just cooked through. Correct seasoning. Remove from the heat.

Once the polenta is ready, remove from the heat and add the coconut milk. Blend well, then plate on a large platter.

Top with the tomato-shrimp mixture, sprinkle with Parmesan if desired, and garnish with a bit more basil.

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41 Comments Add yours

  1. Bernadette says:

    Dorothy, I can’t wait to try this recipe. The sauce looks amazing!

    1. Thanks Bernie! The sauce came together in just a few minutes, and was out of this world! Good ingredients make a difference, as you know!

      1. mruglio says:

        This looks soooooo good!

      2. Thank you so much! It was exactly that!

  2. NativeNM says:

    Wow, I love everything about this dish. I’ve enjoyed several shrimp with polenta dishes but I love how you incorporated the tomatoes into sauce to top it off. Looks absolutely delicious!

    1. Thanks so much! We were really pleased with this one, the shrimp flavor in the polenta really enhanced everything!

  3. This looks and sounds delicious Dorothy! I can’t wait to try it!

    1. Thanks Terri! It’s really heavenly! We all enjoyed it immensely! Have fun with it!

  4. This looks so very delicious. It reminds me of shrimps and grits, which I make often. Will definitely give your recipe a try soon! 🙂

    1. Thanks Ronit! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! And yes, it is not a big stretch from shrimp and grits!

  5. Your beautiful posts make me hungry, always! This sounds absolutely delicious. I can’t eat shrimp but I am thinking that another type of fish, such as cod, might work well. What do you think? Thanks!

  6. Chef Mimi says:

    Oh this is so good! LOVE love love the combination. Just about anything is great on polenta, or grits, but shrimp i feel are especially good!

    1. Thanks Mimi! It was one of those very quiet eating moments once we dug in, just a lot of pleasing sounds!

  7. Julie Knott says:

    Nice dish to wrap up summer with!

  8. CarolCooks2 says:

    I could taste this as I read the recipe…polenta is not something I cook with often but I really love tomatoes and this sounds glorious…BM so I don’t forget to try ….Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. Thanks for your kind words Carol! I love it when a cook is able to taste the recipe from the description, to know when a combination is pleasing. Enjoy this!

      1. CarolCooks2 says:

        I think that comes from experience don’t you agree., Dorothy..I can and I am sure you can read a recipe and know if it is going to work 🙂 x

      2. Absolutely! I can also read a recipe and know when something is not going to work as well!

  9. Wow Dorothy you are knocking it out of the park with these great recipes! I can’t wait to make this one!!

    1. Thank you! Give this a try, it’s easy to pull together and really satisfying!

  10. Gail says:

    Serve with Wine. 🍷🍃🍤

    1. Oh yes! We served a nice little dry rose with it and it was divine!

      1. Gail says:

        I prefer dry wines. 🍷🍃

      2. Me too! A beautiful dry red or white is usually in my glass! My sister likes sweet, so I got the rose, her favorite, and it was dry enough for me, yet still sweet enough for her. Next time, I’ll just serve myself a dry and her a sweet and we’ll both be happy!

      3. Gail says:

        You’re such a good host. 👏🍃💜

      4. Ah, thanks! I try! 💕

  11. Now, that looks absolutely delicious. I haven’t had polenta in a long time, and after looking at this I can’t imagine why.

    1. Thank you Judy! It’s fun to keep it in the rotation!

  12. terrie gura says:

    This looks great! I appreciate how you explained cooking the polenta, too. I always find that package instructions fall short and it’s definitely one of those dishes you cook by feel rather than by the clock. Your special touch of using your own shrimp stock makes it so sophisticated! And now I’m hungry! 😂

    1. Thanks Terrie! My Italian friend Marie taught me to cook polenta, and she did as I do, just chose a really good quality cornmeal at the health food store. She made it by the feel of it. Too thick, add more water, still grainy, cook longer. And you don’t have to constantly stir it, or stir it only clockwise with a wooden spoon. Or make it only on a full moon….

  13. Looks mighty delicious!❤️

    1. Thank you so much my friend! It was a treat indeed!

  14. I have never tasted polenta before. I love cornmeal and this sounds delicious.

    1. Give it a try! You might be pleasantly surprised!

  15. Sophia Dane says:

    I love polenta. It is great for various combinations. Your polenta in this combination looks amazing. 👏😊

    1. Thank you so much Sophia! It is such a versatile dish, whether soft or hard.

      1. Sophia Dane says:

        You’re welcome. My pleasure. 🤗🌻

  16. I love it! Shrimp and tomatoes is a dish that I love 😋 combined with a creamy polenta is absolutely perfection 😋😋

    1. Thank you Ribana! It all works so beautifully together and is definitely a family favorite at this time of year.

  17. I love the combination of the ingredients and the very pretty result. And I bet it all got wolfed down very quickly ! The one thing I’m not sure I understood the reason-for was the addition of the coconut milk – was this a substitution for milk? Also, it was added at the very end as opposed to towards the end when there was still time for the polenta to absorb it? Good to know, that’s all. But in any case you have really inspired me, thank you!

    1. Thank you! You are right, there is never a bit of this left on the platter!
      I stir the coconut milk in at the end of the cooking to both add a little creaminess and to loosen it up. As I’m sure you know, polenta loves to start tightening up the second it is plated and this seems to slow it down, just a little!

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