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Shrimp and Polenta Cakes with Sun-dried Tomato Cream Sauce is a delicious complete meal, comforting for a weeknight or fancy enough for weekend brunch.
One of my fav dishes at a restaurant local to us is shrimp and grit cakes with cajun cream sauce. I attempted to recreate it at home once and completely bombed the sauce. I managed to salvage the leftovers for the next day’s breakfast (when in doubt, just top it with a fried egg).
I just couldn’t resist giving it another go, but this time with my own spin. Instead of going cajun, I’m taking it in a decidedly Italian direction with pillowy polenta and sun-dried tomatoes in a creamy sauce.
Ingredients for Shrimp and Polenta Cakes with Sun-dried Tomato Cream Sauce
Instant polenta — If you want to spend 30 minutes stirring a pot of polenta, I won’t stop you! I’ve done it plenty of times, but a quality instant box mix will yield fine results. I recommend Delallo (I love their pasta, too).
Shrimp — Fresh or frozen is great, just don’t forget to thaw them overnight in the fridge. To save you a little prep work, look for shrimp that has already been peeled and deveined. Size doesn’t really matter, but I like to use smaller shrimp for this dish. Also, consider buying American caught wild or sustainably farmed shrimp if you have the option.
Veggies — A combination of asparagus and corn provide both earthy and sweet notes. If you aren’t a fan of either, feel free to substitute your favorites!
Cream sauce — The sauce is lightened up by using broth and low-fat cream cheese instead of heavy cream. It’s also punctuated by sweet, savory bits of sun-dried tomatoes and paprika.
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How to Make Shrimp and Polenta Cakes with Sun-dried Tomato Cream Sauce
Make the Polenta
Because the polenta needs time to set up, you’ll want to make it at least a couple hours before you plan to cook the rest of the dish. Feel free to make it a day ahead and leave it covered in the refrigerator.
Simply add polenta to 4-1/2 cups of water that has been boiled and removed from the burner. After stirring for three minutes, add freshly grated parmesan, unsalted butter and salt + pepper to taste. Stir it just until the butter has melted and then transfer it to a lightly oiled 9”x13” dish.
Gently smooth it over with a spoon or spatula. The goal is to not overwork or compact it — we’re going for pillowy polenta cakes! Allow it to cool on the counter for about 30 minutes, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
To unmold it, turn it out on a cutting board and allow it to slip out of the pan. Cut it into 12 equally sized pieces, any shape you like. Now, you’ll sauté them in olive oil to get them lightly golden and crispy on the outside.
You’ll keep these warm in a low oven as you cook the rest of the dish.
Make the Cream Sauce
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook for 20-30 seconds, whisking constantly. Add the flour and whisk constantly for about 1 minute as the flour cooks.
Add the broth and sun-dried tomatoes. Give it a good stir to dissolve the roux, then allow it to come to a low simmer, this takes about 3-4 minutes. Whisk in cream cheese and paprika and stir until melted. Season with salt + pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm while you prepare the vegetables and shrimp.
Cook the Shrimp + Veggies
Start by sautéing diced asparagus in a large skillet in olive oil. After a few minutes, add the corn. Finally, add the shrimp and cook just until the shrimp are cooked through. Season with salt + pepper and crushed red pepper.
Assemble The Dish
Start by ladling about 1/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom of your individual serving dishes. Artfully stack two pieces of polenta in the center of the dish. Then, divide the shrimp and veggies across the dish by letting them tumble over the polenta. Drizzle additional sauce over each dish and garnish with chopped basil and a sprinkle of paprika.
Variations + Serving Suggestions for Shrimp and Polenta Cakes
- If you’d rather not make polenta, you can opt for the tube. I find them to be more dense than what you can make at home, but it would certainly work!
- Or, skip the polenta and serve the shrimp and sauce over rice, pasta, or gnocchi.
- Switch up your proteins by substituting Italian sausage, crab or lobster.
- Other veggies that would be perfect in this dish are red bell pepper, peas or mushrooms.
More Seafood Recipes!
- Air Fryer Spicy Fish Sandwiches with Creamy Yogurt Slaw
- Pan-Seared Scallop Salad with Mandarin Vinaigrette
- The Ultimate Lobster Mac + Cheese
- Poplar Hill Seafood Stew with Ciabatta Toasts
- Crab + Goat Cheese Palmiers
And while we’re talking shrimp, specifically…I know there are tons of fans of bang bang shrimp out there! If you’re one, check out this Bang Bang Shrimp Pasta from Briana at Struggle Shuttle (she’s got an inside scoop on this popular dish)! My family loves southeast Asian flavors + shrimp. Pair that with pasta, too? No brainer!
Shrimp and Polenta Cakes with Sun-dried Tomato Cream Sauce
- cooking spray
- 1 box DeLallo Instant Polenta (9.2 oz)
- 4½ cups water
- ¾ parmesan freshly grated, plus more for serving
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- 12 oz asparagus (about 1 bunch) 1/2" dice
- 1 cup frozen corn thawed
- 1 lb shrimp peeled + deveined
- kosher salt + fresh cracked black pepper
- crushed red pepper flakes optional, to taste
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced or pressed
- 1 tbsp flour white-whole wheat or all-purpose
- 1¼ cups low-sodium broth seafood, veggie or chicken
- ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil) drained, diced
- 3 oz cream cheese (1/3 less fat) room temperature
- ½ tsp paprika plus more to garnish
- fresh basil chopped, to garnish
Make the Polenta
- Lightly spray a 9×13" dish with cooking spray. Prepare the polenta per the package instructions with 4½ cups water. Stir in 3/4 cup of grated parmesan and 4 tbsp unsalted butter at the end. Pour this into the prepared dish and cool on the counter for 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until completely set (about 2 hours). Remove from the pan and cut into 12 equal portions, any shape you like.
- Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cooking in two batches, gently brown the polenta for 3 minutes on each side until they are crispy. Remove them to a sheet pan and place them in a 170F degree oven to keep them warm.
Make the Sun-dried Tomato Cream Sauce
- In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook for 20-30 seconds, whisking constantly. Add the flour and whisk constantly for about 1 minute as the flour cooks. Add the broth and sun-dried tomatoes. Give it a good stir to dissolve the roux, then allow it to come to a low simmer, about 3-4 minutes. Whisk in the cream cheese and paprika and stir until melted. Season with salt + pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm while you prepare the vegetables and shrimp.
Prepare the Veggies + Shrimp
- Add the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil to the large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add the asparagus and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the corn to the pan and cook an additional 1 minute. Add the shrimp to the pan, season everything with a salt and pepper, add crushed red pepper if using, and cook for an addition 2 to 3 minutes until the shrimp are cooked through and the asparagus is crisp tender.
- Pour about 1/4 cup of sauce on each dish. Place a serving of polenta on top of the sauce. Divide the vegetables and shrimp evenly between the serving dishes. Drizzle a little more sauce on top. Garnish with chopped basil, grated parmesan and little dusting of paprika.