Shrimp and Tuscan antipasto

Romano's Warm Shrimp and White Beans
Gamberi e Fagioli con Pomodori e Basilico
Recipe from the book "Mediterranean Summer" by Chef David Shalleck

Makes 8 first-course or lunch servings

This coastal Tuscan antipasto makes a regular appearance during the parade of antipasti at Ristorante Romano in Viareggio. This is optimal summer fare and perfect for entertaining once the base components are prepared. The beans are warm and creamy. The shrimp are cooked in broth just before serving. Sun-ripened tomatoes are perfumed with fresh basil and a great olive oil. Cannellini beans are the most traditional, but other varieties like White Runner or Great Northern will do just fine. Cooking times, as with all beans, will vary, and this will also be a result of their freshness, but plan on up to 3 hours. The rest of the prep work can be done while they are cooking. Or the beans can be cooked a day ahead and will actually benefit from sitting overnight in their flavorful broth.


  • 2 1/4 cups (about 1 pound) dried white cannellini beans
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roots trimmed but bottom still attached so the layers stay together, halve lengthwise
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 Turkish bay leaves
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 large strips lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 pounds large (16-20 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined but shells reserved
  • 2 large (about 1 ¼ pounds) tomatoes, ripe but not too soft, seeded and cut into 3/8-inch dice
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed torn fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 or 4 scallions

To cook the beans, cover with cold water by 2 to 3 inches in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, remove the pan from the heat, cover the pot, and let rest for 1 hour. Strain and rinse the beans, place back in the pot, add enough cold water to cover by 2 to 3 inches, half the onion, 3 of the garlic cloves, and 1 bay leaf. Bring the water to a very slow boil-a little more than a simmer-and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding 2 teaspoons of salt after 1 hour (if added too soon, the salt will toughen the beans.) Cook until the beans are tender-soft and creamy but not falling apart-if you're going to serve the dish right away keep the beans warm over very low heat. If you're making the beans a day ahead, cook them until tender but not soft, since they will continue to cook while they cool in the water and also when reheated later. Do not strain or remove them from the liquid while hot or their outer skin will peel. Also, the cooking liquid has a lot of flavor that will only make them better the longer they are in it. When cool, cover and refrigerate.

Prepare the shrimp broth. Boil 6 cups of water with the remaining onion, garlic clove, bay leaf, the lemon zest, hot pepper, and 2 teaspoons of salt for a few minutes. Add the shrimp shells and boil slowly for 10 minutes. Remove the shells and vegetables with a fine mesh skimmer. Adjust the heat so the broth has a slow, steady boil.

Blend the tomatoes with the olive oil, basil, and pepper. Set aside. Thinly slice the scallions, including a few inches of the greens.

Working with half the shrimp at a time, simmer them in the broth until opaque and slightly firm, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet.

With a slotted spoon, place the beans on a warm serving platter or individual plates. Place the shrimp on the beans, arranging 3 or 4 per serving in a single layer. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon salt to the tomatoes, then spoon them with the residual oil over the shrimp. Sprinkle the top with the scallions. Serve immediately.

Wine Recommendation: A Tuscan white Vermentino from Cima or a Montecarlo Bianco by Fattoria del Buonamico.

Copyright © 2008 by Chef David Shalleck. From the book Mediterranean Summer by David Shalleck, published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

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