A quick and easy dish made of tender-crisp spiced and herbed shrimp baked with tomatoes, garlic and feta. It’s the perfect dish served as an appetizer or a full meal either with pasta or orzo or just crusty bread to scoop up the flavorful sauce right out of the pan. It’s typically made in a large frying pan on the stove top or bakes in a casserole dish, but I decided to make it into a sheet pan dish resulting in a quicker cooking/baking time and minimal prep time.
When I first made this for my husband he looked a bit confused as he was expecting bubbling cheese in a pan to be served on the dinner table not saucy shrimp. You may feel the same way as most people think sagananki should be followed up by a loud OPA and a shot of something potent being poured into a hot pan with cheese and then poof - flames burst and you fear the server will burn off their eyebrows. That is definitely the the most common dish people often think of when they here saganaki. Saganaki in Greek actually refers to the two-handled dish or frying pan the dish is typically cooked in. So you see saganaki can be associated with many other foods other than the cheese it’s so famously known for. This dish has three main components to it - the tomatoes and aromatics, the shrimp and of course the feta. They all come together beautifully in this dish - now let me tell you more about them!
To use fresh or to use canned tomatoes?
Not that big of a dilemma actually. It’s completely up to you whether you use fresh tomatoes or canned. You can even use larger chopped fresh tomatoes in place of cherry tomatoes. Approx 4-6 medium sized tomatoes would do in place of the cherry tomatoes. Really and truly this dish works well with whatever you have on hand. If tomatoes are in season definitely use them and if not use canned whole tomatoes. If you are using canned try to use good quality canned tomatoes which enhance the flavour of the dish. If I can get fresh I will always use fresh because I love the taste of roasted fresh tomatoes. Choose fresh herbs over dry where and when you can especially in this case when the fresh herbs are tossed in and on after the dish has been cooked as they add so much to the dish. If you like an extra bit of freshness you can even toss some fresh dill to the herb mix to add some more freshness and vibrancy to the dish. Make sure that your tomatoes, garlic, and onions are well seasoned with salt and pepper as each layer adds to the whole dish.
How to get the most delicious shrimp?
This one is easy guys. I toss mine well with the spices and let them hang out, while I chop my veggies and seasonings and make sure that each of them are fully coated with seasoning. They get a few minutes of marinating while I prep and it’s literally like they are getting a nice flavour bath. Shrimp don’t need a lot of time to absorb flavours that they are marinating in, so that quick little ‘bath’ will ensure they are covered in flavour and bake up deliciously! I always buy shrimp that has already been peeled and deveined but still has the tail on – makes for a prettier presentation and I find my family is much happier that they don’t have to peel them when they are served. I usually buy frozen shrimp and there’s def nothing wrong with either fresh or frozen. In fact most shrimp has been frozen previously even if it’s being sold thawed. Either works great. Just be sure that when you’re cooking frozen shrimp, you let it really thaw out before putting it over any heat and makes sure to pat them dry with a paper towel before placing them in the marinade. They cook/bake up quickly which is great for a quick meal.
Should I have dairy with seafood?
Scientifically there is no proven reason why you should avoid having the two together. This traditional Greek dish (in good company with many creamy pasta shrimp dishes) disregards the notion that seafood and cheese don’t mix and it works beautifully resulting in a beautiful balance of flavours. Make sure and use a good quality feta and one that you like. Some like a softer brinier feta and other like harder more crumbly feta. You can use anyone one you prefer. There are slight variances, however, in flavor and texture, depending on what type of milk is used (cow, sheep or goat) and where the feta is made. What you use boils down to taste, and availability. I’m not picky when it comes to feta and neither is this dish.
I love serving this dish with my lemon parsley orzo. It goes really well with the flavours of the shrimp and I’m a sucker for pasta. We could have eaten this right off the sheet pan with crusty bread though and next time we may just do that. If you are a shrimp lover I know you are going to love this dish. Trust me on this one and definitely give it a try.
- 4 tbsp of Extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 1 small red onion, finely sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes or 1 can (14½ oz.) tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp sweet paprika
- 1 - 1½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined (thawed if frozen)
- ½ cup of Greek feta cheese, crumbled plus more for serving
- 1 tsp tsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp each roughly chopped mint and parsley plus extra for garnish while plating
For the lemon parsley orzo
- 1 tsp salt
- 8 oz. orzo pasta (about 1⅓ cups)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1½ tsps lemon zest
- ½ tsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
- In a large saucepan, bring 1 quart of water to a boil.
- Add the salt and orzo and cook until the orzo is tender and has absorbed almost all of the cooking liquid, 8 to 9 minutes.
- Stir in the butter, lemon zest and juice and parsley and set aside while making the Shrimp Saganaki.
- Preheat the oven to 425 ° F.
- Toss shrimp with chili flakes, paprika and oregano, 2 tbsp of olive oil and set aside
- Arrange cherry tomatoes, garlic and onion on a rimmed baking sheet, then drizzle with remaining olive oil and toss. Season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange shrimp over tomato mixture in one layer.
- Crumble cheese over surface
- Roast until the shrimp are opaque and the tomatoes begin to burst, 10-15 minutes. If you want a crispier edge to your shrimp you can put the oven on broil for the last minute or two
- of baking (no more as you don’t want to overcook your shrimp) until the edges are browned and crisp. Remove them from the oven and finish them with a generous squeeze of lemon and sprinkling of fresh mint and parsley along with extra cheese if you would like.
- Serve with salad, bread, or pasta. I served mine with lemons parsley orzo and it was fantastic.