Pasta with Black Squid Sauce
Spaghetti al Sugo Nero di Seppie
Yield: 6 generous portions
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot.
To clean whole squid: Rinse thoroughly. Pull the tentacles from the body sac. If using the fresh squid ink, remove the slender, silver ink sack from the strands connected to the tentacles. Place the ink sacks in a small bowl covered with a few drops of water until ready to use. Clean the tentacles by cutting just below the eyes and retaining just the leg portion. Turn back the tentacles and squeeze gently to reveal the bead-like “beak.” Pinch off the beak and discard. Gently squeeze out all of the viscera from the squid tubes making sure to remove the hard, transparent “quill” that runs the length of the interior wall. Peel the purplish skin from the outside of the tube. Rinse and pat dry. Chop the squid tubes and slice the tentacles into quarters. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Make a “tritato,” a flavorful base for the sauce. In a food processor or with a sharp knife, chop together the onion, parsley, garlic, and the lemon zest. Chop the ingredients so that they are fully amalgamated but not a paste.
Cook the prepared “tritato” and the red pepper flakes in the olive oil over medium heat until the onions are tender and aromatic, but not brown. Add the chopped squid and sauté until the squid firms up and begins to release natural juices, 2 minutes.
Add the white wine and reduce by half 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, clam juice, salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil then simmer gently until the squid is tender and the sauce thickens, 10-12 minutes. Do not boil the sauce too quickly or the squid will become tough and rubbery. Using the tip of a knife or a skewer, blend just a few drops of ink into the sauce at a time until the sauce is a dark, savory brown.
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, drain and return to the pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the pasta is well coated, about 2 minutes.
The pasta is ready to be served.
Use the squid ink that can be found at a good Italian market or your local fish market. Using a scant 1/8 teaspoon, the finished sauce is dark blackish brown without looking too inky. I saved some of the lemon zest for the top to add some pretty color and fresh flavor.