While we were in Marche, Italy this spring, we had stuffed calamari prepared by my cousin’s wife, Maria, several times. These beautiful squid from the Adriatic were stuffed with a simple mixture of their own tentacles (chopped), breadcrumbs, parsley, salt-and-pepper and a little olive oil. Then they were baked to a golden brown with a simple sauce of olive oil and a little tomato puree.
It’s been hard to replicate this here at home because most of the time the squid available at local markets is tiny compared to the more ample squid found in Italy. Fortunately, at the recently opened Cape Seafood and Provisions in Los Angeles on Fairfax Avenue, I have been able to find really beautiful calamari, perfect for this dish. They also have a small selection of shellfish, fin fish and prepared products. It’s all very high quality and, in my opinion, much better quality than WFM at about the same price.
Occasionally the store has fresh squid from Santa Barbara, but this time I found previously frozen squid from Rhode Island. The squid bodies were big and that made it easy to stuff the squid. The color was also a beautiful light red; something I’d never seen before.
These stuffed squid would be great on their own as an appetizer, or could be served on a light bed of dressed greens to make a nice salad. Don’t over-stuff the squid, because the breadcrumbs absorb moisture and expand during cooking. Overstuffing them will lead to exploding squid!!
Makes an appetizer for 4 people.
Directions and Ingredients:
•16 large squid bodies of approx. equal size
•About the same amount of tentacles by weight as the bodies
•3 cloves of garlic, minced
•Very small pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
•Splash of white wine
•1 cup of plain breadcrumbs (I prefer panko breadcrumbs)
•1 bunch of parsley, stems removed and leaves finely chopped
•Salt and pepper
•Extra virgin olive oil
Pyrex baking dish
1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
2. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté very gently, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the squid tentacles, tossing in the olive oil, until opaque. Add a splash of white wine and continue cooking until the wine is mostly evaporated or reduces to a thick syrup. Remove from heat.
3. When the tentacles are cool enough to handle, remove from the pan to a cutting board. Chop finely with a good sharp knife. Move to a mixing bowl.
4. Mix in with the chopped tentacles breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil to create a thick paste. Taste the filling and adjust the salt and pepper for taste.
5. Stuff the squid bodies using a teaspoon. The first few teaspoons are difficult but it will get easier. Only fill half full because the filling will expand when it cooks. Pin closed the open end of each stuffed squid body with a toothpick.
6. In a Pyrex baking dish, drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil. Add about a tablespoon or two of tomato puree and combine with a brush. Place the stuffed squid in the dish and brush with the olive oil-tomato mixture.
7. Bake for about 1 hour until the squid are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally and brushing occasionally with the sauce.
Serve 2-to-4 squid per person with a little sauce brushed on top.
Joe and Michele Becci are a brother and sister team who love all things Italian. Together, from opposite coasts, they co-author the blog www.OurItalianTable.com.