Featured in 14 Recipes That Make the Most Canned Tomatoes
White beans, tomatoes, and fennel are heaven-made matches. Just ask an Italian.
This one-skillet dish confirms the adage of “what grows together, goes together.” Add some shrimp to the mix, and you have a substantial meal that comes together easily and all in one pan!
Think of this as a filling stew. For extra credit and texture, make some toasted breadcrumbs to sprinkle on top, and it’s like a seafood cassoulet! Shrimp and vegetables are a meal on their own, but to make dinner even more robust, serve it with a green salad and a baguette.
Give Fennel a Chance!
Fennel is a prized vegetable in the Mediterranean, where it is eaten both raw and cooked. It’s beloved by Italians and Greeks for its flavor and medicinal qualities.
If you haven’t fully explored fennel, then let me be an advocate. The fat bulbs are as crisp as celery when they are raw, with a distinctive licorice flavor. When cooked, they become soft and sweet, and the licorice takes a step back.
I think it is a vastly under-appreciated vegetable that deserves at least a “try it, you’ll like it” chance.
For this recipe, brown wedges of the bulb in a skillet before simmering them in stewy tomatoes. There is a flavor exchange here—the tomatoes take on an herbal undertone, while the fennel sweetens and mellows in the sauce.
The Best Way to Cook Shrimp
If you’ve ever cooked rubbery shrimp (and truth, we all have), it’s probably because you cooked it at too high a temperature.
The delicate proteins in shrimp seize, shrink, and become rubbery when subjected to high temperatures, so the trick to making tender, succulent shrimp is to cook them at a temperature lower than the boiling point. For poaching shrimp, the water temperature should be between 165oF and 175oF.
In this recipe, you’re basically poaching the shrimp in tomato sauce. If you simmer it very gently for a minute or two and remove the pan from the heat for another few minutes, the shrimp cooks in the residual heat and is perfectly done.
How to Make Fresh Breadcrumbs
Adding crunchy breadcrumbs to this dish is like the icing on the cake. You could skip it, but they make the dish irresistible.
You can use store-bought breadcrumbs (like Panko), but it's also really easy to make your own!
To make breadcrumbs quickly in a food processor, remove the crusts from slightly stale bread; tear the bread into pieces, and pulse in a food processor until they form coarse crumbs. It is a great way to preserve those last few slices that have gone a teensy bit stale.
Once you’ve turned them into crumbs, slip them into a plastic bag, and keep them in the freezer. They will last almost indefinitely, but I think they lose some flavor after three months.
Does This Make Good Leftovers?
Some people hate leftovers, but this is one of those dishes I am happy to have in the fridge.
It will keep a day or two after it is cooked. Just reheat it very gently on top of the stove. Don’t nuke it in the microwave (you know, that shrimp rubber ball thing).
More Shrimp Recipes!
- Pasta for dinner with Spring Shrimp Scampi with Peas and Mint!
- Try this tasty Southern Shrimp and Grits!
- Who doesn’t love tacos? No one. They are even better with shrimp!
- If the weather is nice and the livin’ is easy, make Grilled Shrimp!
- Coconut Shrimp Curry is quick and easy!
- For the breadcrumbs (optional):
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups coarse bread crumbs, store-bought or homemade (see Recipe Note)
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- For the shrimp:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large fennel bulb
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo, Maras, or other crushed red pepper
- 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup water, or as needed
- 1 pound extra large (16 to 20 count) shrimp
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley (for garnish)
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges (for garnish)
Toast the breadcrumbs (optional)
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the bread crumbs, thyme, salt, and ground black pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden and crisp. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.
Prepare the fennel
If there are any brown spots on the outside of the bulb, use a vegetable peeler to remove them. Cut a sliver off the bottom of the fennel bulb, but leave the root intact to hold the wedges together. Slice off the stems close to the bulb, and reserve some of the fennel fronds for the garnish. Cut the fennel bulb into 8 wedges.
Sauté the fennel
In the skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the fennel wedges and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning them with tongs occasionally, until they are golden on the outside. Transfer the wedges to a plate.
Cook the onions and seasonings
Return the skillet to the stove over medium heat, and add the onions, garlic, celery, thyme, salt, and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the vegetables soften.
Add the tomatoes and simmer
Add the tomatoes, their juices, and 1/2 cup water to the pan. Bring to a simmer and nestle the fennel wedges into the tomatoes.
Cook for 12 to 14 minutes, turning the fennel with tongs occasionally, until the fennel is tender. If the liquid in the pan looks dry, add more water, a few tablespoons at a time.
Add the beans and shrimp
Stir in the beans and return the stew to a simmer. Spread the shrimp on top, cover the skillet with a lid, and simmer at very low heat for 2 minutes.
With tongs, turn the shrimp over in the stew, cover the pan with a lid, and remove it from the heat. Let the shrimp cook in the residual heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are opaque in the center.
Transfer the stew to a serving dish, or serve it straight from the skillet. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, parsley, and reserved fennel fronds over the top and finish it with a squeeze of lemon. Serve with additional lemon wedges.