Shrimp fra diavolo and grits is an Italian take on a classic Southern dish. This spicy shrimp and grits recipe features bacon and quick-cooking shrimp in an easy tomato sauce, all served over Parmesan grits for an updated version of comfort food.
Much like dairy-free banana pudding, shrimp and grits was not a meal I ate growing up. Not once. But better late than never I suppose, because shrimp and grits was one of those meals that wowed me when I got around to trying it down here in the south. Creamy grits, perfectly sauteed shrimp, bacon...what's not to like?
Since I rarely leave well enough alone when it comes to classic dishes, I started amping up the spice when I made it at home, which soon transformed into this household favorite shrimp fra diavolo and grits recipe. Italian-American means Southern comfort food. Pretty much describes my life in the south!
Reasons to Love This Recipe
- It has so much flavor. You have a just-spicy-enough tomato sauce, shrimp cooked in bacon fat, lots of Parmesan in the grits, etc.
- This shrimp fra diavolo is pretty simple and tastes fancier than you might think given the effort involved.
- It's TOTAL comfort food and it's a mash-up of two cooking styles I encounter (and enjoy) frequently: Italian-American eats and Southern cuisine.
There are three main parts of this recipe: the shrimp, the sauce, and the grits.
What kind of grits to use for shrimp and grits?
One of my favorite tips when it comes to this dish to use quick grits. They're not the pre-cooked instant grits (which I don't recommend using for flavor and texture's sake), but are instead a more finely-ground version of stone-ground grits. They just cook in less time, which can be time-saving strategy that comes in handy at mealtime.
Grits on their own can be pretty bland, so this recipe leans into the Italian theme by adding three-quarters of a cup of grated Parmesan. You can use another hard cheese, such as Pecorino. These grits really shine when using freshly-grated cheese for the best flavor.
Fra Diavolo Sauce
All the classic fra diavolo sauce ingredients are here, including onion, lots of garlic, wine, and crushed tomatoes. I usually go with a white wine when it comes to shrimp fra diavolo, but I have subbed in a dry red and love it just the same. Red is my go-to when making smoked sausage pasta fra diavolo after all.
Popular white wines on the drier side are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio, while drier reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.
What kind of shrimp to use for shrimp and grits?
And as for the shrimp, I'd be remiss if I didn't include my usual seafood PSA: buy frozen!
Most of the seafood in the supermarket seafood department was previously frozen and allowed to thaw in the case. While this means you don't have to go through the thawing process at home, you're forced to make whatever it is that day. That may not be an issue, but for someone like me who has a tendency for making last-minute meal changes, it throws a wrench in that free and easy mindset. Plus you can buy them on sale and save them for when you're ready.
I go with jumbo, peeled, deveined shrimp for this shrimp fra diavolo. Either shell-on or shell-off works, and large shrimp will also work. They don't take long at all to thaw, either overnight in the fridge, or by placing them in a large colander set over a bowl in the sink and running cold water over them for five or so minutes.
- Start by prepping the grits (full instructions in the recipe card below).
- Fry the bacon slices in a large skillet, one big enough for the shrimp fra diavolo sauce to come together in at the end. Remove the cooked bacon to a plate and remove all but around two tablespoons of the bacon grease from the pan. Add your thawed shrimp in a single layer and cook for 1-2 minutes per side before removing them to a separate plate, too.
- Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute, then deglaze the pan with the wine. Scrape up all the stuck-on bits from the bottom of the pan and stir them into the mixture. Those bits bring lots of flavor.
- Next add the crushed tomatoes, crushed red pepper, oregano, salt, and pepper. The sauce will need a short time to reduce and thicken, at which point add back the shrimp to heat. Serve over grits topped with crumbled bacon and parsley.
- You can prepare the grits any way you wish - using all water, all broth, half broth/half milk, etc. I prefer half broth/half milk as the broth gives them a little extra flavor while being creamy (but not too creamy) from the milk.
- If you don't have grits, you can easily serve this saucy shrimp over pastina or creamy polenta from a tube. I've subbed in both of those on occasion and love the creamy base they provide. Plus they're super quick to make!
- Jumbo or large shrimp work, either tail-on or tail-off. If peel-on shrimp is all you have they'd be fine, though you'd have extra prep work in removing the peels.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Shrimp Fra Diavolo and Grits
For the grits:
- 1 ½ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 ½ cups milk (I use 2%)
- ¾ cup quick grits (see note)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper more to taste
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese more or less to taste
For the shrimp and sauce:
- 4 slices bacon
- 1 pound jumbo peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed
- Half of a large onion diced
- 6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- ¼ cup dry white wine (see note)
- 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper more or less to taste
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
For the grits:
- Add chicken broth and milk to a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil. Add grits, salt, and pepper and stir.
- Once the mixture comes back to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for five minutes, stirring every now and then, and then add Parmesan. Stir until it's melted and combined. Keep warm while you prepare the shrimp and stir occasionally.
For the shrimp and sauce:
- Add bacon to a large skillet set over low-medium heat. Let the bacon cook, flipping the slices as needed, until fully cooked. Remove bacon to a separate, paper towel-lined plate.
- Remove all but about 2 Tablespoons of the bacon grease from the skillet and set it over medium to medium-high heat. Add the shrimp in a single layer, cooking 1-2 minutes on each side, until the shrimp is pink, no longer translucent, and curled. Remove cooked shrimp to a separate plate.
- Next add onion to the skillet set over medium heat and cook in the remaining bacon grease for 3-4 minutes, stirring around regularly. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute.
- Pour wine into the skillet and scrape up all of the onion and garlic from the bottom of the pan. Let cook for a minute, and then add crushed tomatoes, crushed red pepper, salt, oregano, and pepper. Stir and reduce heat to low-medium. Let sauce simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until thickened until your liking.
- Once thickened, add shrimp to the sauce and stir to coat. Cook for a few minutes to heat shrimp.
- Serve the shrimp fra diavolo over grits and garnish with fresh parsley and crumbled bacon.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer