Looking for a comforting and hearty weeknight dinner? Look no further than shrimp cacciatore! It’s a rustic and simple dish that will satisfy your cravings. I remember receiving my first cookbook, Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian, when I was in middle school. I would spend my evenings watching back-to-back episodes of Giada’s Everyday Italian and Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals on Food Network. The cookbook, now a permanent resident at my parent’s house, holds cherished memories of cooking and experimenting with recipes like marinara sauce, chicken piccata, and chicken cacciatore. It’s fascinating to think about how this book may have shaped my cooking style today. Am I naturally drawn to rustic stews, pastas, and risottos, or did this cookbook spark my love for them? Let’s explore the wonders of shrimp cacciatore and why you’ll fall in love with this dish.
Why You’ll Love This Dish
Even though my cooking skills have improved over the years, Giada’s recipes still hold a special place in my heart. I know some people find her irritating, but I can’t deny that I learned a lot from her! While my tastes have evolved, I still crave the zesty flavors of lemony garlic piccata sauce and the tangy stewed tomatoes in cacciatore. However, as a mostly pescatarian now, I wanted to create a seafood version of cacciatore. The result? Shrimp cacciatore, a dish with a robust sauce made from onions, garlic, tomatoes, white wine, and a delightful mix of vegetables. I add mushrooms for extra umami and red bell peppers for a burst of flavor. This recipe serves two perfectly, but you can easily adjust it for one and enjoy leftovers the next day. Rosemary and parsley provide earthiness and brightness to balance out the sauce’s acidity and sweetness. It’s an easy, rustic, and comforting dish that will leave you wanting more.
What is Typically Found In Cacciatore?
Cacciatore, which means “hunter” in Italian, refers to a style of cooking. Traditionally, chicken and rabbit are the meats commonly used in this dish. Cacciatore aims to create a hearty and rustic feel. Variations of the dish can be found all over Italy. For example, in Northern Italy, onions, celery, and carrots are commonly used, while in Southern Italy, anchovies, olives, and chili peppers are added. Despite these differences, the general method remains consistent. Start by searing the meat, often coated in flour, until it develops a nice crust. Once browned, transfer the meat to a plate. Saute the aromatics, such as onions, garlic, and herbs, in the flavorful drippings. Then, deglaze the pan with wine and add tomatoes, vegetables, and meat back into the pan. Simmer until the meat is cooked through and the flavors meld together to create a delicious stew.
Shrimp Cacciatore vs. Chicken Cacciatore
You may be wondering how shrimp cacciatore differs from the classic chicken cacciatore. I’ve done my best to capture the heartiness and flavors of the chicken version. Here are the key techniques I use:
- Extract as much flavor as possible: While shrimp and chicken share a mild flavor profile, chicken cacciatore often uses bone-in, skin-on meat, which adds richness and depth. To compensate, I use plenty of olive oil, a bit of clam juice (or seafood stock), and crispy mushrooms for extra savoriness.
- White wine, parsley, and chili flakes complement the shrimp: While these ingredients may not be traditional in cacciatore, they work well with shrimp and add a delightful twist to the dish.
- A good simmer builds depth: To develop the flavors, I simmer the sauce for at least 15 minutes. During this time, the shrimp are set aside to prevent overcooking.
Let’s take a closer look at the essential ingredients in this dish:
- Shrimp: I prefer medium-sized shrimp for this recipe, but you can use any size you like. I recommend using pre-deveined frozen shrimp for convenience. To thaw the shrimp, transfer them to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight, or place them in a sealed plastic bag and submerge them in cold water for 20-30 minutes.
- Red bell pepper: The sweet and fruity taste of red peppers enhances the flavors of this dish. If red peppers are not available, you can use green peppers, though they will have a slightly less sweet taste.
- Mushrooms: Choose flavorful and earthy mushrooms for this recipe. Shiitake, beech, maitake, and oyster mushrooms all work well.
- Diced tomatoes: Unlike other recipes, diced tomatoes are perfect for this dish. They add tanginess and firm bites of tomato, providing a great texture.
- White wine: Cacciatore recipes can use either red or white wine, depending on personal preference and the type of meat used. For shrimp cacciatore, a dry white wine such as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot grigio pairs well with the shrimp.
- Herbs: I use rosemary for its earthy flavor and parsley for its fresh and bright taste. If you prefer, you can substitute fresh oregano for rosemary or basil for parsley.
How to Make This
Step 1: Saute the mushrooms: Over medium-high heat, brown the mushrooms on both sides until they become crispy. It’s important to resist the urge to flip them too often. Allow a few minutes on each side for proper browning. Once done, remove them from the heat and set them aside.
Step 2: Cook the shrimp: Cook the shrimp over medium heat until they are just barely pink on both sides. Shrimp cooks quickly, so keep a close eye on them. Depending on the size of the shrimp, it may take around one minute. Remove the shrimp from the heat and set them aside. Turn off the heat.
Step 3: Saute the aromatics: Utilize the residual heat by sauteing the garlic, red pepper flakes, and rosemary until they become aromatic, around 1-2 minutes. This also helps to loosen any flavorful browned bits stuck to the pan.
Step 4: Continue sauteing: Increase the heat to medium and add the onion and red pepper to the pan. Saute for 8-10 minutes until the vegetables have softened.
Step 5: Deglaze the pan: Add white wine to the pan, bring it to a boil, and then reduce it to a simmer. Use this opportunity to scrape up any remaining tasty bits stuck to the bottom.
Step 6: Simmer the stew: Add diced tomatoes, clam juice, and the cooked mushrooms back to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Let the stew simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Finish the dish: Introduce the cooked shrimp and half of the parsley to the pan. Simmer until the shrimp are fully cooked, if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the dish hot!
Over the years, I’ve served cacciatore in various ways. Here are some serving suggestions:
- Enjoy it with warm crusty bread to soak up the flavorful juices. A baguette works well, or you can try making my focaccia if you’re up for a weekend project.
- Pair the dish with a kale caesar salad for a bright and zesty contrast to the hearty shrimp.
- Transform the shrimp cacciatore into a pasta dish by boiling some spaghetti until al dente, then toss it in the sauce to coat the noodles. Orzo is also a great alternative.
- For something rich and indulgent, try serving the shrimp cacciatore over mascarpone polenta.
This shrimp cacciatore can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, gently simmer the dish on the stove until warmed through. If needed, you can add a little clam juice, seafood stock, or water to loosen up the sauce.
Make-Ahead Instructions: The flavors of this dish develop even further when it’s made ahead of time. Follow the recipe, but omit cooking the shrimp. Saute the mushrooms, aromatics, vegetables, and simmer the stew. Just before serving, simmer the shrimp in the sauce until cooked through, which should only take a few minutes.