This shrimp dish is most extravagant if made with big, crunchy shrimp, but if you are price-conscious, medium size or even small shrimp will be delicious. Keep in mind the cooking time decreases as the size of the shrimp decreases. The amount of pepperoncino you use to obtain the “Fra Diavolo,” or “Brother Devil”, is to your liking. Fra Diavolo sauce, originally used with lobster chunks still in the shell, is a creation of Italian immigrants in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century.
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
- 1 ½ pounds extra-large or jumbo shrimp
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 cups diced inner celery stalks and leaves
- ¼ teaspoon peperoncino
- 1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
- ¼ cup tiny capers in brine, drained
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add ¼ cup of the olive oil and the garlic. Once garlic begins to sizzle, add half of the shrimp and the thyme sprigs. Season shrimp with ½ teaspoon salt and toss just until the shrimp are seared (but not cooked all the way through), just a minute or 2. Remove shrimp to a plate with tongs and repeat with remaining shrimp and another ½ teaspoon salt.
Once all of the shrimp has been seared and removed, add celery to skillet and cook until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add peperoncino, let toast for a minute, then pour in the tomatoes and slosh out the can with 1 cup hot water. Season with remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook until celery is tender and sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in capers, return to a boil and add shrimp back. Simmer until shrimp are just cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in parsley and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Serve immediately.
NOTE: Lidia suggests serving over rice or polenta.