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Spaghetti in Squid Ink Sauce

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Legendary dish in black squid ink sauce. Highly addictive and not easily forgotten.

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Food made pitch black with squid ink is not a culinary gadget. It's an addiction. The intense black color and strong iodine taste makes those dishes want to hit them again and again until none is left. This is nothing new. In popular crime novel by Andrea Camilleri, Sicilian police captain Montalbano is invited for dinner by the police Superintendent. "My wife will prepare spaghetti in squid ink. An exquisiteness". Montalbano is so taken with the prospect of eating this legendary dish that during the whole novel he makes every effort not to confront his superior in the thorny case in he's working on so that the spaghetti in squid ink can be safe. Finally Montalbano calls him the day before:
  -Superintentent? I am calling to say I am really mortified, but won't be able to make it for dinner tomorrow.
  -You are mortified because we cannot meet, or because of the squid ink pasta?
  -Both Sir.

Pasta in Squid Ink Sauce
Pasta al nìvuro di sìccia
4 squids
2 bags of squid ink (see text)
4 ripe tomatoes or 1 can chopped tomatoes
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
500gr/1lbs long pasta (ie spaghetti, linguine, bucatini)
120gr grated pecorino cheese
A bunch of parsley
Quality flaked red peppers such as piment d'Espelette

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Unless you fish them yourself, squids come with an empty ink bladder. Not that they tried it on the fisherman in a hopeless bid to get away, they just get squeezed so much in commercial fishing nets that all of the ink disappears into the ocean. You need to get the ink separately. If you live close to a Spanish or Italian immigrant community, chances are your local fishmonger will store tiny squid ink pockets in his fridge. When you find them, buy as many as you can afford!

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Squids are members of the baggy animal kingdom. Their whole body is organised in bags, which the cook needs to extract one by one by putting his fingers into the beast and remove them. Then you have to find the transparent 'bone' that keeps the bag straight and remove it too. Finally, peel off the skin as shown on the pictures above. You can then cut 0.5''/1cm rings and set them aside. Some people will buy ready-made rings from a freezer store but not me.

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I use 1 medium white onion and 2 garlic cloves for 4 portions.

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Peel the onion, then cut it in half, then thinly lengthwise, then one time lengthwise but horizontally and finally thinly crosswise. You'll end up with tiny onion cubes and be content to have cut an onion like a French chef. Look at the pictures for a clearer idea. Proceed in the same fashion with the garlic.

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In a wide saucepan, start by frying the onion and garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the puréed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Let the squid rings join them and cook over a medium-high flame until they are cooked through.

 

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Add the squid ink, chopped parsley, red pepper flakes and mix well.

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This miraculous substance starts spreading in the bright red sauce and turns everything the darkest shade of black. Food scientists will pin me to the wall but in my book, squid ink is just as powerful a colorant as saffran. And it adds a brilliant, intense iodine taste.

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The Pasta
This recipe calls for long pasta such as spaghetti, bucatini or linguine. My Kenwood pasta extruder makes great linguine from eggs and semolina flour, and this is my favorite choice. But feel free to use your favorite long pasta.

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Fill your largest pot with water, add some salt and bring to rolling boil on your hottest burner. Remove the pasta just about 30 seconds before it's fully cooked, as it will continue to cook in the sauce.

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Eating grated cheese with fish pasta is one my guilty pleasures. The Italians, you see, consider it sacrilege eating Parmesan on any dish that contains fish, and most Italians extend this notion to any cheese. But this traditional Sicilian recipe calls for grated pecorino, and I checked in several books and with Mrs Consoli and this is in fact culinary orthodoxy. Not that I am such a classicist, but this is not of these I-add-a-little-ginger-as-a-personal-touch kind of blog and if you discuss this dish with Italians somebody might certainly end up with his feelings bruised - now it won't be you.

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Mix intimately and serve as a gorgeous first course in a formal dinner or as main course.

Published 16/10/2007
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58 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by claudia
  • on: 16/10/2007
BeautifulJust wonderfulI shall enjoy this vicariously...
  • #2
  • Comment by Calamari Union
  • on: 18/10/2007
Thanks for the great post! Anyway, the superb classic dish "spaghetti al nero di seppia" is made with cuttlefish (seppia) ink, not squid (calamaro) ink. But looking at the bags you used, you certainly seem to have the right stuff. I haven't tasted squid ink so I don't know if the taste is much different.
  • #3
  • Comment by Ahmad
  • on: 29/10/2007
The concept of eating squid ink just strikes me as so strange!  But from your descriptions, I'd sure like to try it.
  • #4
  • Comment by anh
  • on: 31/10/2007
Thanks for this great recipe! I recently bought some squid ink packets from a gourmet store and can't wait to try them in this recipe! I also hunted down guanciale and tried the pasta alla norma and it's great! The guanciale is really worth the trouble of the hunt!
  • #5
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 31/10/2007
Ahn I am so glad my blog helped you discover guanciale and squid ink. These are amazing ingredients that are well worth the price. You need to try pasta all'amatrician with the guanciale, this is the most classic guanciale recipe (see on my blog for the recipe). Hope to see you around FXcuisine!
  • #6
  • Comment by Shreela
  • on: 01/11/2007
You make your own pasta, have you tried making black pasta with the squid ink? Would it turn out really black? I'll see if I can score some ink next time I go to the waterfront stores.
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 03/11/2007
Shreela, yes I made black pasta by mixing the squid ink with the egg and flour a few times, it is very spectacular but I guess with my taste for black backgrounds on my blog pictures it wouldn't show very clearly on the pictures. If you try make sure to use a generous amount of squid ink, at least two packs per pound of flour. You can also make black and white pasta by coloring only half the pasta dough.
  • #8
  • Comment by altajoe
  • on: 25/01/2008
I can't wait to try this recipe.  Black ink pasta doesn't hold a candle to black ink sauce.
  • #9
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 28/01/2008
Indeed, black pasta is all about color, whereas squid ink sauce is all about taste and every bit as impressive!
  • #10
  • Comment by Michael Savoia
  • on: 04/02/2008
Where do I get the squid ink?
  • #11
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 04/02/2008
Michael, if you can find proper squid they all come with an ink bladder inside. But commercial fishing nets compress the squid and the ink seeps out. In that case you'll be better off buying small ink pockets (plastic) in Italian/Spanish shops or at the fishmonger.
  • #12
  • Comment by taz
  • on: 14/03/2008
Hi FX, I just got introduced to your site a few days ago and couldn't stop reading it! beautiful pictures and interesting prose and I just have to try cooking some of the dishes. This one brings back memories from childhood - my mom used to cook squid rings in ink sauce, in fact that was the only way she knew how to cook it, so until I left home I thought all squid dishes are black! I'd help cleaning the squids and reserve the ink bladder for use in the sauce. not sure if squids with full ink bladder can still be found these days, will have to ask her.
  • #13
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 16/03/2008
Taz thanks for your visit! Squid ink is such a magical ingredient in the kitchen, I am not surprised its color brings you back on Memory Lane! Nowadays unfortunately most squids you find in cities don't have much ink left and you need to purchase it separately.
  • #14
  • Comment by evelyn d. umali
  • on: 25/03/2008
Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe.  I say wonderful although I havent tried it but will do so asap because I have been searching for this particular recipe.  The pictures are fantastic and your procedure seems quite simple enough! Will definitely look into your other recipes!!
  • #15
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 27/03/2008
Evelyn, thanks for visiting my blog and good luck with the squid ink pasta. You can't fail this dish I think. If you like it look into my Arroz Negro, it's a simple Spanish rice dish with squid ink. I love squid ink!
  • #16
  • Comment by Marga
  • on: 31/03/2008
Your recipe and procedure is impressive, thanks a lot. Your pictures look so professional. I love squid ink! In pasta, paella with rice, and fidegua, with fideos (thicker than capellini). I like a bit of a kick so I put some guindilla or chile.
  • #17
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 03/04/2008
Marga, thanks a lot for your visit! Yes it's a nice recipe, but I think the real masters of squid ink are indeed the Spaniards. You'll see an 'arroz negro' on my blog but the recipes you mention look more complex. Would you know of a very comprehensive book about authentic, traditional Spanish cooking with detailed recipes?
  • #18
  • Comment by Mya
  • on: 26/09/2008
Hi Fx
I've jusy discovered your site and your recipe for squid sauce pasta sounds awesome,I will be trying this out this weekend at my parents house on london luckily i know the perfect place to get squid ink a fantastic market in Leeds where i study :)
Thanks
  • #19
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 28/09/2008
Mya good luck with the squid ink pasta, it is one memorable dish indeed!
  • #20
  • Comment by Geoff Ball
  • on: 28/11/2008
Brings back a great memory of my first day in Italy.
After being awake for close to 40 hours I was able to have this fine dish at a wonderful restaurant in Novarra.

The other thing I found a passion for is Piedmonte's nebbiolo grape. Until then I had never seen a bubbling red wine. Never had I tasted better red wine.

Wonderful article, your images capture the dish wonderfully.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Geoff, glad it brought back pleasant memories!

  • #22
  • Comment by plop
  • on: 19/01/2009
I’ve had a dish similar to this and it really is a really good dish and a must for any one that likes squid and octopus
  • FX's answer→ Indeed!

  • #24
  • Comment by Jane Tabor
  • on: 23/02/2009
When I was a small child my Mom always cooked squid in a black liquid with some olive oil and garlic.  She served it over rice.  I was never sure how to do it and find the squid I purchase has very little ink. I didn't know that you could purchase it in packets.  I live in Northern California.  Does anyone know where I could purchase it?
  • FX's answer→ Jane perhaps you might call up a coupe fishmongers or some Latino grocery store?

  • #26
  • Comment by Jeannine Leopold
  • on: 21/03/2009
Thank you for putting out this recipe.  Me and my mother went to Italy in 2008 and I had speghetti with black sauce.  I did not know where to find the recipe.  But it was so good I wanted to try to make it at home.  I know that it is something my whole family would enjoy.  Thanks again, Jeannine  P.S Do you send out news letters or recipe updates?  Chow!
  • FX's answer→ Jeannine, I hope you can find the squid ink, that ingredient is more difficult to find than the recipe! Yes I do send an email notification everytime a new article is added and you shall get them!

  • #28
  • Comment by Kevin Torres
  • on: 10/04/2009
Tried this little dish tonight, and my family was absolutely blown away! No squid ink packets available from where i come from (the Philippines), so instead i painstakingly collected the ink from about 1.5 kilograms of medium sized squid, then added a small amount of lemon juice to take away a bit of the smell. surprisingly, a couple o' teaspoons were enough to turn the sauce pitch black. i'll definitely be making this again in the near future. kudos!
  • FX's answer→ My God, Kevin you are a dedicated home chef! I never tried getting the ink out of the squid myself as those we get here are fished with nets, and the weight of the fishes squeezes the ink out of the squids. Glad this worked for you!

  • #30
  • Comment by nan
  • on: 23/04/2009
I love the books and I've had the pasta in Italy. Found some terrific squid ink pasta, but will try this approach to make my own soon.

Nothing like it. I had my first version of squid ink pasta at the Everest Room in Chicago, late eighties--a really memorable dish. THANKS
  • FX's answer→ Nan I think you will love the squid ink sauce, but please remember that the "squid ink pasta" you can buy in shops is just black pasta with not much of a special squid taste. It is the ink in the sauce that makes the dish!

  • #32
  • Comment by Farrah
  • on: 25/04/2009
Grazie millie!  I made a platter of Spaghetti nero di sepia for lunch today, using your recipe.  Mamma mia!  Love it!  Thanks for the step by step guidance - the best I've found on the 'net.

Ciaooooooooooooooo!

Warm Regards,
Farrah Vianello
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Farrah, isnt'it a great dish!

  • #34
  • Comment by AiR
  • on: 23/05/2009
hi been looking for this recipe to try..as i tried this dish sometime back in a restaurant..

i got the same ink sachet as yours that i bought long ago..
but just 1 qns

is it required to have tomatoe sauce as i personally don't really like tomatoe sauce flavoured pasta.

but i will try your recipe first.thanx for the great recipe.
  • #35
  • Comment by sihfiah
  • on: 16/06/2009
Looks beautiful...
I will try it once I buy the ingredients! I've only ever cooked squid ink pasta in its dry form, never actually cooked it with actual squid ink sauce and it sounds terribly exciting!
The recipe I use for my squid ink pasta is the one Babbo's restaurant in NYC makes (black spaghetti with rock shrimp and jalapeno pesto).. It's my favorite restaurant, don't know if you've ever tried it.. but if you ever chance upon going, get the beef cheek ravioli with truffles and goose liver sauce.. it is phenomenal and for a relatively good price for the quality: 25.
I am thinking about becoming a chef.. but I am not sure if I'd like rigorous cooking everyday, because I just do it for fun, once every. say 3 days. Anyways, I really like your recipes, they sound are so warm and helpful, I hope the 2 articles a week does not weigh too much on your schedule as I'd like to keep reading more!
Take care!
  • #36
  • Comment by Rosa
  • on: 22/06/2009
You can buy the squid ink at La Tienda for less than $5.00.
  • #37
  • Comment by aaron
  • on: 27/06/2009
don't know where to get it in hong kong though
  • #38
  • Comment by Matthew Kopka
  • on: 25/07/2009
One night two summers ago, I separated from the group of scholars and students I was touring Cuba with, and set out on a stroll across Havana. It was a beautiful Sunday evening, and if you have ever walked along the Malecon--the sea well at Havana's edge--you may know it is one of the great life experiences. There were musicians and clowns, fishermen, couples necking, children children, music blaring from radios. . .  I walked its several miles, going and coming, in an exalted state, working myself into a serious hunger.

The only eatery I could find outside my hotel was a nondesript little signless place that served pizzas and pasta; I ordered the latter with squid ink. From what I recall it was little more than the inky-rich noodles, olive oil, and a little parsley, to which I added the grated parmesan they set down beside my bowl. Oh my god was it delicious.

Just found some squid ink in our coop here in Tallahassee, and am headed back out for some pepperflakes and cheese!
  • #39
  • Comment by P
  • on: 05/10/2009
I'm from Italy and had this pasta for the first time in my life in Venice last year.  I don't think it had any cheese in it but it was the most amazing pasta dish I've ever had.  Absolutely divine.
  • FX's answer→ Divine it is! Cheese is not commonly used on pasta with fish or seafood in Italy.

  • #41
  • Comment by Dr Muccino
  • on: 17/01/2010
It not only looks and tastes wonderfull,dont forget the many medicinal aspects of squid and octopus ink!
  • FX's answer→ What are the health benefits of squid ink, Dr Muccino?

  • #43
  • Comment by anthony furio
  • on: 28/01/2010
What sauce goes with black (tagatelli) pasta ? olive oil/red/ or white ?

Thanks

Anthony Furio
  • #44
  • Comment by Eytan
  • on: 14/02/2010
made this tonight for my wife on valentines day. it was really incredible - thank you so much for sharing the recipe!
  • #45
  • Comment by Natasha
  • on: 09/03/2010
Hello! In your recipe, you used 2 packs of it, how many is it in grams or FL.OZ? And how many squids do I need to get that much of ink? (in case I couldn't find the packaged version and need to collect it from real squid myself) I'm a Manadonese (PS: North Sulawesi has lots of delicious traditional foods! ^^) and my mom used to cook me squids in ink sauce when I was still in Indonesia, I miss it so much that I can't wait to try this recipe as soon as i get the squid ink!! :DD
  • #46
  • Comment by Erika
  • on: 01/08/2010
Thanks for the recipe and good pictures. I will try this next weekend. I come from Indonesia where we cooked squid in its own ink. I was so happy to find an intact squid with its ink bladder upon moving to bay area (most groceries do not carry intact squid). Cooked them Indonesian style this weekend and it was awesome, can't wait to try this pasta next weekend.  
  • FX's answer→ Erika, do you find much difference between ink-from-straight-the-squid and the ink bought in little plastic bags?

  • #48
  • Comment by Frank
  • on: 16/08/2010
Yes I was curious, you said there was an iodine taste.  As I recall drinking iodine is vile enough to make one vomit. Does it taste exactly like iodine or just a hint such as like a metallic type flavor.  Also there is no such thing as the, "baggy animal kingdom", just had to point that out sorry for being a smartass.  I obviously have never had squid ink pasta before but have been curious about it for some time.  I'm not so sure I can imagine drinking a bottle of iodine though.  Also that last picture kind of scares me away, it looks like some sort of rotting animal festering in putrid slime, but I think thats just the cheese acting as an optical illusion as glare.
  • FX's answer→ Iodine, in this context, is a positive! It's the taste of the air (almost a taste, beyond just a smell) when you are driving nearer to the coast. Ah, there is no baggy animal kingdom, thanks for the zoological tip then!
    The blackness of the dish, as I try to explain, makes it exit the realm of what is considered edible in common experience, and is part of the kick.

  • #50
  • Comment by Marife
  • on: 04/09/2010
I'm gonna try this dish later. looks great and I think it tastes good. Thanks for the recipe. :-)
Awesome - thank you for the detailed explanation.

Actually, squid are not fish (they are mollusks) so maybe that accounts for the exception to the sacrosanct cheese rule?
  • #52
  • Comment by tony
  • on: 13/02/2011
i am going to make this recipe tomorrow, i had to buy ink in a 1 lb. jar. how much do i use. the recipe says 2 bags, how much is in each bag.  please get back to me as soon as u can.  thanks.  Tony
  • #53
  • Comment by Michelle
  • on: 07/03/2011
how many people is the dish for?
  • #54
  • Comment by Sofie
  • on: 29/04/2011
I just read your recipe for pasta con nero.  I am sicilian and have eaten this dish since I was a little girl.
It is indeed made with cuttlefish.  However, you may have missed a part that is unknown to you.  Instead of cheese
we springle the pasta the breadcrumbs that have been sauted with sugar.  A fistful of breadcrumbs, combined with
a couple of tablespoons of oil, cook over medium heat until breadcrumbs and oil are well combined, then add sugar to
give it a sweet taste.  Cook util golden and serve over your pasta con nero.  Try it, it will be more delicious then
putting cheese on it.  Trust me, I was born in Cefalu, a large tourist, fishing town, and that is one of our specialty.
Buon Apetite!!!
  • #55
  • Comment by romeu  pinto
  • on: 08/06/2011
your article is fantastic.your step by step recipe sounds very interesting . whilst i was in venice in 2004. I ate this dish and since then i fell in love.The only reason i did not try to cook this dish is because i could not get my hand on squid ink.
  • #56
  • Comment by Erine Elloso
  • on: 14/06/2011
Hi FX

Am from Philippines but based here in Dubai. My gf and I  have been cooking different pasta recipes these past few days and today I asked  her what kind of pasta recipe to cook and that I only have shrimp and squid in my ref. She suggested Pasta Negra so I started googling here and there for almost an hour, I was about to give up and just look for another kind of pasta recipe not until I came across your website,,,,and then there was light! ahaah!! I was amazed with your photos as well as your precise instruction,,I SO LOVE IT!! Thank You. It was very helpful. CHEERS!! Wish me luck tonight eheh!!!
  • #57
  • Comment by olivia
  • on: 08/08/2011
I just made this pasta for dinner tonight, FANTASTIC!! I can't wait to use this recipe again for a dinner party. Thank you so much.
  • #58
  • Comment by fatbelly fred
  • on: 30/08/2011
Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou, i've been trying to find an authentic cuttlefish dish to put on in my soon to open restaurant in north devon Engand.With huge thanks to Sophie for giving it a bit of a twist.I'm fortunate to have a cuttlefish processing factory near my home and they've agreed to supply me with the ink and cuttlefish.
I'm also drawn to the dark side to taste something which isn't quite acceptable to the eye.Frank close your eyes and dive in you wont be disappointed, a little suprised but not disappointed.Happy days and my fondest regards, thanks again.

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