Shrimp with White Beans

Shrimp with White Beans

Shrimp and white beans may seem like an unusual combination, but it is utterly traditional in northern Italy.

The dish consists of beans lightly cooked with shrimp, vegetables and herbs until the flavors blend. The combination works. You have the sweetness of the mild, creamy beans act as the perfect foil to the briny shrimp.

Canned beans are fine for this dish because the shrimp play the starring role. To boost the flavor of the shrimp, searing on the stove works best. Season the shrimp with sugar, salt and pepper, then add them to a smoking-hot skillet.

Within 90 seconds, they're perfectly cooked, seared on the outside as if they've been grilled and moist on the inside. Also briefly cook red onion, red bell pepper and garlic, which keeps their flavors fresh and their texture appealingly crunchy.

Best warm, this dish can be eaten chilled as a salad or antipasto. 

Shrimp with White Beans

Makes 4 servings.

1 pound extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined

Pinch sugar

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

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, rinsed

2 ounces (2 cups) baby arugula, chopped coarse

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. 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.

2. Off heat, flip shrimp and let sit until opaque throughout, about 30 seconds. Transfer shrimp to bowl and cover to keep warm.

3. 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.

4. 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.