Looking for a rustic, hearty, and easy comforting weeknight dinner? This shrimp cacciatore totally fits the bill!
The first cookbook I ever received was a copy of Everyday Italian from Giada De Laurentiis. I was in middle school, on a Food Network bender, where my evenings consisted of back-to-back episodes of Giada's Everyday Italian and Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals.
The cookbook remains in permanent residency at my parent's house, where I recall vivid memories of cooking through the recipes, the pages crinkled and stained from the dozens of times I made her marinara sauce, chicken piccata, and chicken cacciatore.
Looking back, I wonder how much it's come to define the way I cook today. Fifteen or sixteen years later, I am still so entranced by Italian cooking. Did I always have a penchant for rustic stews, pastas, and risottos? Or did this book inspire the beginning of my torrid love affair?
Why You'll Love This Dish
Though I've definitively transformed into a more competent cook than when I first peered through the pages, her recipes have stayed near and dear to my heart. I know a lot of people find Giada irritating, but I can't deny that I learned a lot from her!
While my tastes have matured and evolved since middle school, I still find myself craving the lemony garlic flavors of a piccata sauce or the hearty, tangy stewed tomatoes in cacciatore. While there are so many renditions of the dish, it's hard to nail down what's actually "traditional." We'll talk more about the traditional elements in the next section.
And the thing is, I'm mostly pescatarian these days, so I wanted to develop a seafood version of cacciatore. The result is a shrimp cacciatore (or cacciatore "style" shrimp) with a robust sauce made from onion, garlic, tomatoes, white wine, and an array of vegetables. I opt for mushrooms, which I crisp up for added umami, and red bell pepper. It's the perfect portion for two, though you could easily make it for one and enjoy leftovers the next day!
Rosemary and parsley provide earthiness and brightness, respectively, to balance out the acidity and sweetness of the sauce. It's easy, rustic, and so comforting.
What is Typically Found In Cacciatore?
Cacciatore itself means "hunter" in Italian, and the name refers to a hunter's style of cooking. Both chicken and rabbit are traditional forms of meat used in this dish. Cacciatore is a rustic dish meant to feel hearty.
There are many variations even within Italy. For example, in Northern Italy, onions, celery, and carrots are common. In Southern Italy, you will find anchovies, olives, and chili peppers.
That said, the general method is consistent across the different renditions. First, sear the meat, which is often coated in a bit of flour to get a crust, until nicely browned on both sides. Transfer the meat to a plate, then set aside. Saute the aromatics, like onion, garlic, and any herbs, in the residual drippings (this adds so much flavor!), then deglaze the pan with wine. Add the tomatoes, vegetables, and meat back into the pan and simmer until the meat is cooked through and the stew tastes delicious.
Shrimp Cacciatore vs. Chicken Cacciatore
You may be wondering what's different between this shrimp cacciatore version and the classic dish. I did my best to mimic the method and flavors from the chicken variation to give you that same heartiness. Here are some of the key techniques I use:
- Extract as much flavor as possible: Obviously, we're using shrimp instead of chicken. Shrimp and chicken are similar, in that they're both relatively mild in flavor. However, chicken cacciatore often uses bone-in, skin-on meat which adds more chicken fat and flavor. To compensate for that, I opt for plenty of olive oil, a bit of clam juice (or seafood stock), and crisping up mushrooms to extract additional savoriness.
- White wine, parsley, and chili flakes complement the shrimp: There are so many shrimp dishes that utilize white wine, parsley, and chili flakes. While these ingredients don't always exist in cacciatore recipe, I made sure they're included here.
- A good simmer builds depth: I simmer the sauce for at least 15 minutes to help the flavors come together. The shrimp are set aside during this time to prevent them from overcooking.
Let's talk through the critical ingredients in this dish.
- Shrimp: I prefer medium-sized shrimp in this recipe, but you can use any size you like! I am a fan of purchasing pre-deveined frozen shrimp that I can keep in my freezer for long-term storage and thaw quickly for an impromptu weeknight dinner. To thaw shrimp, you can either transfer them to an airtight container and thaw them overnight in the fridge, or transfer them to a sealed plastic bag and submerge them in cold water for about 20-30 minutes.
- Red bell pepper: I love the sweet, fruity taste of red peppers in this dish. If you can't find a red pepper, you can also use a green pepper, but it'll provide slightly less sweetness.
- Mushrooms: I recommend a flavorful, earthy mushroom in this recipe. Shiitake, beech, maitake, and oyster mushrooms are all wonderful here!
- Diced tomatoes: I don't typically call for diced tomatoes, but in this recipe, I actually think they're the perfect flavor and texture. They're tangy, providing necessary acidity in the dish, and they offer the right ratio of juices and plump, firm bites of tomato.
- White wine: Cacciatore recipes use red or white wine, depending on the cook's preference and the particular meat. Here, a dry white wine, such as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot grigio, is a great pairing for shrimp.
- Herbs: I like the earthiness of rosemary and the fresh, bright flavors of parsley. You can absolutely sub in fresh oregano for the rosemary. Basil would work in place of parsley.
How to Make This Recipe
Step 1: Saute the mushrooms over medium-high heat until they're browned and crispy on both sides. Resist the urge to flip these every 30 seconds; they need at least a few minutes on each side to properly brown. Remove them from the heat and set aside.
Step 2: Cook the shrimp over medium heat until both sides are just barely pink (don't worry we'll finish cooking them in the sauce later if needed). Shrimp cooks very quickly! With my gas burner, my medium shrimp only took one minute. Remove them from the heat and set aside. Turn the heat off.
Step 3: Saute the aromatics. Here, I like to scrape the pan to loosen any browned bits that are sticking to the bottom (this is that flavor goodness)! It's okay if they don't fully loosen from the pan yet. Saute the garlic, red pepper flakes, and rosemary for about 1-2 minutes in the residual heat until they're nice and aromatic.
Step 4: Keep sauteing. Increase the heat to medium, then add the onion and red pepper and saute for 8-10 minutes until softened.
Step 5: Deglaze the pan. Add the white wine, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, scraping up any remaining stuck bits from the bottom of the pan.
Step 6: Simmer the stew. Add the diced tomatoes, the clam juice, and the cooked mushrooms back to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, then simmer the stew for 15-20 minutes.
Finish the dish. Add in the cooked shrimp and half of the parsley. Simmer until the shrimp are cooked through (if needed), then season again with salt and pepper. Serve hot!
Over the 15 years I've made cacciatore, I've served it with a number of different options. Here are some ideas:
- Warm up some crusty bread to sop up the juices. I love a good baguette, but if you're into a weekend project, might I suggest my focaccia?
- I love this kale caesar salad as a bright and punchy complement to the hearty shrimp.
- You can also turn this shrimp into a pasta dish! Boil some spaghetti until al dente, then transfer to the sauce to coat the noodles. Orzo would be great here, too.
- Last but not least, if you're looking for something rich, try this mascarpone polenta.
This shrimp cacciatore lasts up to 3 days in the fridge stored in an airtight container. I like to reheat it on the stove over a gentle simmer until warmed through. If needed, you can add a bit more clam juice, seafood stock, or water to loosen up the sauce.
Make-Ahead Instructions: This sauce tastes even more delicious the next day, so if you'd like to make it ahead of time, you absolutely can! I'd recommend following the recipe with one adjustment: omit cooking the shrimp, but proceed with sauteing the mushrooms, aromatics, vegetables, and simmering the stew. Just before serving, simmer the shrimp in the sauce until cooked through - it should only take a few minutes.
Searing the mushrooms locks in additional flavor to this dish. If you're short on time, you can saute them with the rest of the vegetables, but you may need to boost the flavor elsewhere!
Yes! You may find the flavors are more vegetal heavy instead of briny, but it will still taste delicious.
Yes, you can. Just keep in mind, it may take longer to cook the vegetables and simmer the stew.
I love adding a bite of saltiness from anchovies, capers, or olives.
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
- 4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 ounces mushrooms, such as cremini, beech, maitake, oyster, or shiitake
- Salt and black pepper
- 8 ounces medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined; I like to leave the tail on sometimes!
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 sprig rosemary, destemmed and finely chopped
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- ½ cup dry white wine, such as chardonnay, pinot grigio, or sauvignon blanc
- 14 ounces canned diced tomatoes
- ½ cup clam juice, or seafood stock
- ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Sear the mushrooms: Line half of a large plate with a paper towel, leaving the other half bare.Set a large saute pan or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat with 3 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil. Meanwhile, prep the mushrooms: thinly slice any cremini or shiitake mushrooms; tear beech/maitake/oyster mushrooms into bite-sized pieces.When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the mushrooms in a single even layer. Sear them until browned and crispy on the bottom, about 3-5 minutes. Using tongs, flip the mushrooms and sear them on the other side until browned, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.Remove them from the heat and transfer to the paper towel side of the plate (this helps keep them crispy).Note: Resist the urge to flip the mushrooms too frequently; they need at least a few minutes on each side to properly brown.4 ounces mushrooms, Salt and black pepper
- Cook the shrimp: Reduce the heat to medium, then add the shrimp in an even layer. Cook until both sides are just barely pink, about 1-3 minutes total.Turn the heat off, then remove the shrimp from the pan and transfer to the bare side of the plate. Note: At the end of this step, there will be delicious brown bits at the bottom of the pan (these add a ton of flavor to the dish). However, if they're burned, I recommend wiping the pan clean.8 ounces medium raw shrimp
- Saute the aromatics: With the heat still off, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and saute the garlic, red pepper flakes, and rosemary for about 1-2 minutes in the residual heat until aromatic; the garlic should be pale golden-brown.Note: Here, I like to scrape the pan to loosen any browned bits that are sticking to the bottom! It's okay if they don't fully loosen yet.2 cloves garlic, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 sprig rosemary
- Cook the vegetables: Turn the heat on to medium, then add the onion and red pepper, and saute for 8-10 minutes until soft and translucent. Season with salt and pepper.1 small onion, 1 red bell pepper
- Deglaze the pan: Add the white wine, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, scraping up any remaining stuck bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until half the liquid has evaporated and it no longer emits an alcoholic smell.½ cup dry white wine
- Simmer the stew: Add the diced tomatoes, clam juice, and cooked mushrooms back into the pan. Season with salt and pepper, then simmer the stew for 15-20 minutes.Note: At the end of the simmering step, the sauce should have thickened considerably and it should no longer have a raw acidic taste from the tomatoes. Instead, it should taste well-salted, savory, and slightly tangy. If it still tastes too acidic, continue simmering on low heat.14 ounces canned diced tomatoes, ½ cup clam juice
- Finish the dish: Add in the cooked shrimp (and any accumulated juices on the plate) and half of the parsley. Simmer until the shrimp are cooked through (if needed), then season again with salt and pepper.¼ cup flat-leaf parsley
- Serve: Divide the shrimp cacciatore amongst serving bowls and top with more parsley. Enjoy!