The concept behind this dish comes from a semi-recent trip to Firenze, Toscana, Italia and a truly wonderful meal not long after in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. Squid ink not only helps color the dish with a unique approach but provides it with the distinct coloration. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this…
The first of which is to just buy squid parts in their own ink. This is fairly easy and depending on where they come from, what is common is the ink and related lipids, such as olive oil, along with back preserving agents, such as local salts, are placed in a can with the sliced squid body and then vacuum sealed and “pasteurized.” Though, any number of variants that include preservative agents, ink coloring preservatives, chemical oils and flavorings, etc. so be wary of where you pick up the cans from. For my area there are enough people who use it that there’s a fairly fine stock of well packaged squid-in-ink-with-olive-oil parts for quick cooking, that I relied on in creating this…
On the flip side, there are any number of frozen whole squid options to work with, which I am more than accustomed to in a very Italian / Iberian / South American area of the country. They come in all types from whole frozen to whole fresh to pre-cleaned or pre-cut and essentially anything else you can think to satiate the different needs. Just be sure if you go this route you get the ink as well as the squid body. Trust me, it’s an integral part of the dish. It is occasionally sold separately, so if it’s not included with your cephlopod look around and see if you can find it bottled in a specialty foods section. If you opt for the whole, uncleaned squid you’ll have to dismantle it yourself so don’t forget to be careful with the ink and the beak (don’t want to break a tooth on that!). Either way, once you break it down into bite size pieces the general rule of thumb is less than three minutes or more than three hours to cook. I strongly suggest the less than three minutes as the rest of this meal isn’t exactly designed to be an all day affair. Don’t miss the quick cook mark or what you’ll get is something about as edible as tire rubber.
If you were making the pasta from scratch you would incorporate the ink into the pasta itself. However, in this case I am using pre-made pasta so therefor I will introduce it into the recipe in a slightly different way. Hey, you have to work with what you’re given. Therefore, this is by no means meant to be authentic, it is more the closest I can get to do what I experienced while visiting based on what is readily available to me money and time included. You can substitute the spaghetti with any size string style pasta, of course.
red pepper flakes
parsley, flat leaf
squid (cleaned / prepped)
large stock pot
Finely chop the onion and garlic and shred the parsley
Fill the large stock pot and bring the water to a boil
Cook the pasta according to the package until it is just about al dente, it will finish cooking in the frying pan, don’t overcook it in the water
Sautee the onions and garlic in a little bit of olive oil while the pasta cooks
Once the pasta is mostly cooked, drain it well and place it in the frying pan, reserve some of the starchy cooking water
Add the squid ink, red pepper flakes, season with black pepper and toss to combined
Add the squid to the frying pan and saute, do not overcook the squid
Add a small amount of lemon juice and use some of the starchy cooking water from the pasta to help make the ink into a light sauce
Toss to combine
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil over the top.
I didn’t have capers but I think they would have made a nice addition to the dish. When I did the recipe tonight I also served it with wilted spinach as part of the meal. Although not essential per se, I like to incorporate veggies into everything because they are my faves and something like spinach sautees up in the same time as the squid making for an easily timed preparation.