Northern Italians combine their beloved white, or cannellini, beans with a seemingly infinite variety of ingredients.
Shrimp and white beans may seem like an unusual combination, but it is utterly traditional. The dish consists of beans lightly cooked with shrimp, vegetables, and herbs until the flavours blend. The combination works to great effect; the sweetness of the mild, creamy beans is the perfect foil to the briny, chewy shrimp.
Canned beans passed muster and are the heart of this dish, but the shrimp play the starring role. We looked for a cooking method that would boost the flavour of the shrimp and found that searing on the stovetop worked best. We seasoned the shrimp with sugar, salt, and pepper, then added them to a smoking-hot skillet.
Within a minute and a half, they were perfectly cooked, seared on the outside as if they’d been grilled and moist on the inside. We also briefly cooked red onion, red bell pepper, and garlic, which kept their flavours fresh and their texture appealingly crunchy.
Tasters loved arugula in this dish as opposed to herbs like basil and rosemary. Its gentle peppery bite successfully married all of the other flavours. Although we prefer this dish warm, it may be eaten chilled as a salad or antipasto. The cooking time is for extra-large shrimp (about 21 to 25 per pound). If using smaller or larger shrimp, be sure to adjust the cooking time as needed.
SHRIMP WITH WHITE BEANS
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 pound extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped fine
1 small red onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed
2 ounces (2 cups) baby arugula, chopped coarse
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pat shrimp dry with paper towels and season with sugar, salt, and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add shrimp to skillet in single layer and cook, without stirring, until spotty brown and edges turn pink on first side, about 1 minute.
Off heat, flip shrimp and let sit until opaque throughout, about 30 seconds. Transfer shrimp to bowl and cover to keep warm.
Heat remaining 1/4 cup oil in now-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add bell pepper, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in beans and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.
Add arugula and shrimp along with any accumulated juices and gently toss until arugula is wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 421 calories; 177 calories from fat; 20 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 143 mg cholesterol; 860 mg sodium; 35 g carbohydrate; 10 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 26 g protein.