The Little Fish Market in the Wall: Shrimp with Pancetta and Puree of Chickpeas (Gamberi al Pancetta e Crema di Ceci)

These ingenious Italians….who else would utilize space under a street for nothing other than a fish market? For a few years, I have known about the little fish market in the wall in Montalcino. It is only open Tuesdays and Fridays. Usually when I pass, the line is long as the villagers catch up while waiting for their catch from the sea. I have always been rather intimidated by the looong line. The fear of having to arrive at the front and order in Italian while the village looks on. A memory of ordering prosciutto at a very busy meat counter in Sicily still haunts me ….I bravely yelled across the counter for what I thought was an appropriate amount of prosciutto. I watched in amusement (ok, horror) as the deli guy lovingly sliced container after container after container of prosciutto.  I smiled demurely as the Sicilians around me grew increasingly impatient.  I chuckled as I walked to the checkout with 8 containers of prosciutto. My Sicilian then-boyfriend dissolved into a puddle of laughter when I arrived back at his place. We ate prosciutto for a week. So this morning, I was nothing short of excited when there were only a few villagers in line.  So I took my place. And soon I was at the front. I crossed my fingers and ordered what I hoped was only enough fresh gamberi (shrimp) for a few meals. Ta-dah! The appropriate amount of shrimp was scooped out and placed atop the scale. My chest swelled. My bravado soared. Yeah!

Off to the market to figure out what to make with my little prize. After eating pasta all week, I spied these very cool little paper boxes of chickpeas. They don’t use cans here but little paper boxes (and they use biodegradable shopping bags for which you must pay .09 euros – and why haven’t we adopted these environmentally friendly practices in America???) Still working on overcoming my fear of chickpeas, I decided to try a chickpea puree as a base with the fresh sautéed shrimp on top. Dinner was born. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I enjoyed working it out.  I approximated the amounts for the ingredients below as there are no measuring cups, spoons, or blenders in my pad but I think the measurements should work.

The LIttle Fish Market in the Wall
Catch of the Day

And I now have enough beautiful fresh shrimp for dinner tomorrow night – join me if you can! Buon appetito!

Shrimp with Pancetta and Puree of Chickpeas (Gamberi al Pancetta e Crema di Ceci)


1 pound large shrimp

1 can of chickpeas

6 cloves garlic, divided

A few sprigs of parsley

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon, divided in half

Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 ounces of pancetta, diced

1/2 cup white wine

2 plum tomatoes (or 1 medium tomato), cored and diced

Additional fresh parsley, chopped


1. Peel and devein the shrimp. Leave heads and tails intact. Put all the shrimp shells in a small saucepan. Cover with 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, covered.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Strain shrimp broth once cool.

2. Prepare chickpea puree: Rinse the chickpeas.  Place in a small saucepan with 1 peeled, smashed clove of garlic, parsley sprigs, and shrimp broth.  Add extra water if needed to cover.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Drain chickpeas and reserve cooking liquid. Place in a blender or food processor or use a fork to mash. Add olive oil, lemon juice and 2 cloves of garlic, chopped. Blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. If too thick, add some of the cooking liquid to thin.

3. Prepare the shrimp: In a large saute pan, heat a few tablespoons olive oil on medium-low. Add the diced pancetta and saute until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is crisp. Remove from pan and drain on a few paper towels. Drain all but a tablespoon of the oil. Finely chop 4 cloves of garlic. Add to pan and saute garlic over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the shrimp and saute a few minutes until slightly pink but not overcooked, about 2 minutes. Add in the wine, chopped tomato, and juice from other half of lemon. Simmer for a few minutes until wine is reduced.

4. Sprinkle with pancetta and parsley.

5. Plate chickpea puree on a warm serving plate. Arrange shrimp and sauce over chickpea. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve!

Join the Conversation

  1. That 1st picture is amazing!

    1. Grazie, sani panini!

  2. It is always such fun to place an order, but not be sure of your “quantity”…one hopes to end up with not 8 boxes, but maybe 8 slices of meat?…:) The shrimp dish looks lovely! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hi, I nominated you for the ILLUMINATING BLOGGER AWARD. Check out my blog if you want to accept 🙂

    1. Grazie, DutchgoesItalian! Very fun…will head over to your blog now. Just returned from Italy so nice to find this waiting. Grazie!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Italian Table © Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.