Ruth Fales’s Tomato and Shrimp Sauce for Grits, Rice, or Pasta


For the Sauce

  • 5 pounds heads-on shrimp
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons ( cup) chopped garlic
  • 1 gallon crushed ripe tomatoes (core the tomatoes and run them through a food mill or meat grinder)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For Serving

  • olive oil
  • ¼ pound peeled shrimp per serving
  • ¼ to ½ cup reserved sauce per serving
  • about 1 tablespoon unsalted butter per serving
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • freshly chopped basil or Italian (flat-leaf) parsley to taste (optional)


Peel the shrimp and remove the heads, saving the shells and heads and refrigerating the shrimp for later use. In a large nonreactive stockpot, heat the oil until smoking and add the shrimp shells and heads, stirring them constantly and frying them until they all turn pink. Add the garlic and the tomato puree, reduce the heat, and simmer slowly for 2 hours. Puree the mixture well, then strain it until it is perfectly smooth and free of stray bits of shell, about 4 or 5 times. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Sauté the shrimp over medium heat in a little olive oil, adding some sauce as you turn them from one side to the other. Cook no more than 3 minutes. Finish the sauce off with a little butter and freshly ground black pepper and serve over pasta or rice with a garnish of freshly chopped basil or parsley or without the herbs over grits.