These are some of my favorite foods all combined in one dish. Breaded shrimp coated with air-dried breadcrumbs sautéed till golden brown in olive oil, spinach blended with pancetta, garlic and onions, tomato sauce, all covered with melted mozzarella. Serve with creamy polenta. You can make this ahead of time. After friends arrive, just bake until warm and bubbly. Have one of your friends stir the polenta so you can take the night off.
1 lb extra-jumbo (16-20) raw shrimp with tails attached
Olive oil as need to fry shrimp
All purpose flour as needed
2 eggs, beaten with 1 Tbsp water
Panko breadcrumbs as needed
Two 10 oz packages frozen cut leaf spinach, thawed
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil (1 tsp dried)
4 oz pancetta (or bacon), ¼ inch dice
½ cup white wine
Pinch ground nutmeg
4 cups tomato sauce
8 oz ball Mozzarella, cut in half, slice each half into 10 pieces
Put the spinach in a colander set in your sink, and squeeze the excess water from it.
Fry the pancetta over medium-low heat until slightly colored. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Increase heat to high; add the wine and nutmeg, cook until the moisture has evaporated.
Reduce heat to medium-low, add the spinach and reserved pancetta, and cook until no moisture runs out of the spinach, about two minutes; stir in the basil and reserve.
Peel and devein the shrimp. Cut them almost through and open each like a book. Gently flatten them between sheets of wax paper with a mallet.
Set up three shallow bowls one with flour, one with beaten egg, and one with breadcrumbs. Bread the shrimp by dipping in flour, then egg, then crumbs; firmly press the crumbs so they adhere.
Heat olive oil over medium heat and fry the shrimp until golden brown on both sides. Cook them a few at a time; drain on absorbent paper.
Pour the tomato sauce into a large shallow baking dish. Place a ball of the spinach stuffing onto each shrimp and nest into the tomato sauce.
Top each with a slice of mozzarella. Bake in a preheated 400° oven about 25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese has melted.