I did not know that shrimp parmesan was a region-specific delicacy until I moved out of the New York metro area. It was a dish I had grown up on, almost as common as chicken, eggplant, or veal parmesan: pretty much every pizza joint on Long Island has it on the menu, either in platter or sandwich form (otherwise known as the classic “shrimp parmesan hero.”) Tender, succulent, and sweet, the shrimp pairs well with the tangy tomato sauce and salty blend of cheeses, balancing out the flavors a little more distinctly than other proteins. It’s a heavenly meal.
That I later could not find it on take-out menus in rural Western Massachusetts or Los Angeles was disappointing, but unsurprising. (After all, Californians think Costco Pizza is good.) But Boston?? The land of seafood?! It’s been impossible to find it here, too.
So I had to make it on my own. And it’s so, so good.
16 oz can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 yellow onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, sliced
Olive oil, as needed
Italian seasoning blend
Salt and pepper, as needed
2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups flour
2-3 eggs, beaten
3 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
Your favorite long-noodle pasta
Parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Over medium heat, drizzle a little olive oil in a large sauce pan. When the oil is glistening, toss in the chopped onion and stir until they’re translucent. Add the garlic, and after about two minutes, pour in the crushed tomatoes. Stir in salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning blend, and then set the heat on low and allow the pot to simmer while you work on the shrimp. Stir occasionally.
Run the shrimp under cold water and pat dry. (Note: I use fresh shrimp, but you can frozen – just make sure they’re thawed!) Form a production line from left to right: bowl of flour, bowl of beaten eggs, bowl of breadcrumbs, empty plate for breaded shrimp. Then, one by one, dredge your shrimp in flour, thoroughly coat it in the egg wash, and then batter it in breadcrumbs, making sure it’s thick and completely covered. Place each on the plate.
Heat up a large skillet over medium-high with some olive oil, and when it begins to glisten, add your shrimp, but don’t overcrowd them. (You may have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pan.) When they have formed a nice golden-brown seal on the bottom, flip them. The shrimp should be wonderfully crispy on all sides when they’re done. Place each finished one on a paper towel to soak up the excess oil.
In a large baking pan, create a single layer of crispy shrimp and ladle about half your tomato sauce over it. (The other half should be used for the pasta.) Evenly sprinkle a layer of mozzarella cheese, and then a layer of parmesan cheese. Place the pan in the oven and bake for around 15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and browning at the edges. While it’s baking, prepare the pasta.
You can serve the shrimp over the pasta or on the side. Don’t forget your parsley bits for color! (As I did in the picture below, haha.)