The Italian way with grilled shrimp, like most Italian grilling and indeed most Italian cookery, is simplicity itself. You marinate the shrimp briefly in fruity olive oil and lemon juice mixed with a few simple seasonings, then slap them on a hot grill for a few minutes on each side, just until they’ve turned color and cooked through, and ever so slightly browned. Serve them napped with more of the marinade, which does double duty as a sauce. That’s it. No fuss, no muss. And pure heaven.
Gamberoni alla griglia are really versatile. They’s great for informal cookouts on the backyard patio, but just as suitable as a starter or, in more generous portions, the main course for an elegant sit-down dinner.
- 1 kilo (2 lbs.) large shrimp or langoustines, preferably unshelled and, if possible, with heads still on
For the marinade/sauce:
- 250 ml (1 cup) extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- A few sprigs of fresh parsley, finely minced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a mixing bowl until well emulsified. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add more of whatever you think it might need.
In another bowl, add the shrimp, unpeeled, and enough of the marinade to coat them nicely. Mix well and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
While the shrimp are marinading, prep and heat up your grill.
When the shrimp have marinated and the grill searingly hot, lay down your shrimp directly over the embers and grill no more than 3-5 minutes on each side, or until they have turned pink and browned a bit.
Lay the shrimp out on a serving platter and nap with some of the remaining marinade as a sauce. Serve with any extra sauce on the side for those who want more.
Notes on Gamberoni alla griglia
For making gamberoni alla griglia, you want your shrimp a decent size. Larger aka jumbo shrimp are less likely to overcook under the grill’s intense heat. In fact, best of all if you can find them are the langoustines called scampi in Italian in which case you’ll have made scampi alla griglia. Here in the US, the closest thing I’ve been able to find are the tiger shrimp you’ll find in many Asian supermarkets. Sometime dubbed the “poor man’s lobster“, they have fine flavor and meaty texture and are well worth searching out.
If you do want to use smaller shrimp, then I’d recommend skewers to avoid the shrimp falling through the slats. Cook even more briefly than the larger shrimp, of course. You may need to forget about their browning to avoid overcooking them, but they will be quite tasty anyway.
In most Italian recipes, the head and shells are typically left on, again to protect the shrimp’s delicate flesh from the grill’s brutal heat. Diners peel off the shells themselves, which you can make easier by cutting a slit in the shell down the ‘belly’ of the shrimp for easy peeling. It is said that the heads lend more flavor and it’s easier to tell whether the critter is fresh or not. In this country you will be hard-pressed, outside certain ethnic supermarkets, to find shrimp sold with their heads still on, but if you do, do give it a try.
If you don’t have an outdoor grill, or if the weather isn’t cooperating, no worries. You can prepare gamberoni alla griglia with a well preheated stovetop grill pan. In a pinch you could even run them under a hot broiler. Get them as close to the broiler as you can, on the top rack, and turn up the broiler as hot as it will go. Cooking times should be quick just as if you were grilling on an outdoor grill.
This sort of treatment for grilling seafood may be familiar to those of you who follow the blog for a while or know Italian seafood grills. Similar olive oil and lemon marinades work wonders on grilled fish, octopus, squid or lobster. And of course the iconic salmoriglio sauce from Sicily, so delicious on swordfish, also starts with an olive oil and lemon juice base.
One very common variation on this dish is to dip the shrimp in breadcrumbs just before grilling them. (Or in some versions, the breadcrumbs are added to the marinade.) The breadcrumbs will brown up quickly, adding some nice crunch and color to your shrimp. I especially like this variation for smaller shrimp, which cook too quickly to caramelize on their own. It is also useful in providing some protection, if you will, for pre-shelled shrimp. But just be careful not to actually burn the breadcrumbs. Better to place the shrimp away from the hottest part of the grill.
You can also mix things up a bit on the marinade. Oregano is a nice change from the usual parsley, for example. Or use thyme or marjoram if you’d like a less decisive flavor. And a pinch of red pepper flakes lend a bit of heat if you want it.
You may have noticed that it’s been quite a while since my last post. Over two months, in fact. That’s the longest hiatus since I first started blogging in 2009! Sincere apologies for that. And thanks to those of you who have been nice enough to write in or leave a comment on the blog asking if I’m OK.
The reason, you may ask? Well, there’s no one reason. It’s been a perfect storm of circumstances that have kept me away from the blog lately. Some, like family visits and weekend trips, have been fun. Others, like intense work pressure and health issues, have been less than fun. But I do see the light at the end of the tunnel now, and if things go well with this post I’m now back to regular blogging. Thanks for hanging in there!
Gamberoni alla griglia
- 1 kilo 2 lbs shrimp or langoustines preferably unshelled and, if possible, with heads still on
For the marinade/sauce
- 250ml 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 lemons juice of
- 1-2 garlic cloves finely minced
- A few sprigs of fresh parsley finely minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a mixing bowl until well emulsified. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- In another bowl, add the shrimp and enough of the marinade to coat them nicely. Mix well and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
- While the shrimp are marinading, prep and heat up your grill.
- When the shrimp have marinated and the grill searingly hot, lay down your shrimp directly over the embers and grill no more than 3-5 minutes on each side, or until they have turned pink and browned a bit.
- Lay the shrimp out on a serving platter and nap with some of the remaining marinade as a sauce. Serve with any extra sauce on the side for those who want more.