I try to tune in to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street broadcast or podcast on NPR each week. Last weekend I was rewarded with this simple recipe from Michela Tasca for polenta with shrimp and tomatoes.
Michela Tasca has a farm and bed and breakfast just north of Venice. He shared this recipe on Milk Street for preparing this oven-baked and simmered polenta with shrimp and tomatoes. I have always prepared polenta on the stovetop and found it tedious to prepare as it required constant stirring and attention. I was also under the impression that in order for polenta to be rich and creamy that I needed to add butter, cheese, and sometimes heavy cream. My assumptions were proven to be incorrect.
This minimalist version of oven-baked polenta uses only water and the coarse stoneground polenta to make this simple one-pot meal. Do not use the finely ground polenta for it will become thick and sticky and turn to glue. While the coarse ground polenta is baking uncovered in the oven, you can prepare the rest of the ingredients.
As summer draws near, this is the perfect time to begin to experiment with recipes that will make good use of your tomato crop and fresh basil. While the polenta is baking, you can begin by lightly sautéing the shrimp in a little olive oil until partially cooked. Then you can add roughly chopped fresh tomatoes, a little more garlic, and fresh basil and parsley. The beautiful thing about this recipe is that all of the ingredients are fresh and lightly cooked with only a little olive oil. The unique and nuanced flavors of each ingredient are allowed to subtly combine and infuse for a burst of earthy, sweet flavor.
Allow the polenta to sit, covered, for about 5-10 minutes after you remove it from the oven. Top the creamy baked polenta with the bright and fragrant tomato, shrimp, and basil sauté. Optional to garnish with a little freshly grated parmesan.