One of our “Bounty of the Sea” recipes
We can think of few examples where the unlikely combination of seafood and cheese marry as well as in Greece’s shrimp saganaki. In this dish, sweet, briny shrimp are covered with a garlic-and-herb-accented tomato sauce and topped with crumbles of creamy, salty feta cheese. Making this dish can be a gamble, though. The shrimp can be tough and rubbery, the tomato sauce can turn out dull or overwhelming, and the feta can be lackluster. We set out to develop a foolproof version of this dish — one that is perfectly cooked and captures the bold and exuberant essence of Greek cuisine.
Why This Greek-style Shrimp Recipe Works
Serves four to six
We started with the tomato sauce. Canned diced tomatoes along with sautéed onion and garlic provided our base. Dry white wine added acidity. Ouzo, the slightly sweet anise-flavored Greek liqueur, added welcome complexity when we simmered it in the sauce.
While the shrimp are typically layered with the tomato sauce and feta and baked, we found this method lacking. Since this should be a quick and easy dish, we opted to cook the shrimp right in the sauce; adding the shrimp raw to the sauce helped infuse them with the sauce’s bright flavor. And for even more flavor, we marinated the shrimp with olive oil, ouzo, garlic and lemon zest first while we made the sauce. Final touches included a generous sprinkling of feta over the sauced shrimp as well as a scattering of chopped fresh dill.
- 1½ pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on, if desired
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons ouzo
- 5 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 5 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon grated zest from 1 lemon
- Table salt and ground black pepper
- 1 small onion, diced medium
- ½ medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced medium
- ½ medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced medium
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained, ⅓ cup juice reserved
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 6 ounces feta cheese, preferably sheep’s and/or goat’s milk, crumbled (about 1½ cups)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
How to Make Greek-style Shrimp
- Toss the shrimp, 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1 tablespoon of the ouzo, 1 teaspoon of the garlic, the lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl until well combined. Set aside while preparing the sauce.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, red and green bell peppers and ¼ teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables release their moisture, 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the moisture cooks off and the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes longer. Add the remaining 4 teaspoons garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and reserved juice, the wine and the remaining 2 tablespoons ouzo; increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded and the sauce is slightly thickened (the sauce should not be completely dry), 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the shrimp along with any accumulated liquid to the pan; stir to coat and distribute evenly. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 6 to 9 minutes for extra-large shrimp or 7 to 11 minutes for jumbo shrimp, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a bare simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle evenly with the feta. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon oil evenly over the top and sprinkle with the dill. Serve immediately.
Top image: Daniel J. van Ackere for America’s Test Kitchen