Category Archives: Pasta: Seafood

Spaghetti with Squid, Sweet Peas, and Fresh Chives

Along the Adriatic Sea, Friulian cooks combine fresh offerings from the water with unusual fresh herbs and spices; parsley is commonplace across Italy as a partner to fish and seafood, but in Friuli, fresh chives are favorites as well. The result is particularly beguiling when peas are added. When it comes to squid, you can either flash-cook it (1 minute or less) or stew it low and slow. Either will result in tender squid, but anything in between is likely

to yield rubbery squid. Here the chosen method is low and slow.  Don’t be

alarmed at the large quantity of squid called for in the recipe below: once they hit the pan, the squid lose so much moisture that they shrink considerably.

Ingredient notes: In Grado and other towns along the coast, cooks use cuttlefish for this recipe as often as squid; feel free to use cuttlefish if you find some at your local fish market. But remember: the smaller the squid (or cuttlefish), the sweeter the taste and the more tender the flesh.

Squid and sweet pea sauce with chives

Serves 4

For the sauce:

  • 1 pound ripe plum tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • 2 pounds cleaned squid, tentacles chopped if large, tubes cut into thin rings (weight after cleaning; about 4 pounds prior to cleaning)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cool water as needed
  • ½ pound (2 cups) frozen petite peas, thawed

For the pasta and to serve:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives

Make the sauce: Make a cross-hatch on the bottom of each tomato and cut out the stem end on each tomato. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil and drop in the tomatoes; cook until the skins begin to loosen, about 30 seconds for ripe tomatoes and 2 minutes for firmer tomatoes. Drain and cool. Slip off the skins. Cut in half along the width (the Equator) and scoop out the seeds. Dice finely and set aside.  (I actually like the seeds so I do not remove them, but most classic Italian recipes call for seeding the tomatoes; this is your call. Seeds contain a lot of flavor as well as vitamins.)

Warm the olive oil with the garlic and parsley over a medium flame in a deep, wide saucepan large enough to accommodate the pasta later. When the garlic is just fragrant, but before it takes on any color, add the squid. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the wine and cook until the wine nearly evaporates, about 2 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes, season with the salt and pepper, and cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, adding water as needed to maintain about ½ cup of liquid in the pan at all times. Stir in the peas and, if needed, some water to keep the sauce nice and moist. Cover again and cook 5 minutes. Adjust the seasoning and keep warm.

Make the pasta: Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente, then drain, reserving 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Transfer the drained pasta to the saucepan and sauté 1 minute over high heat to meld the flavors. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to thin out the sauce; it should coat the pasta nicely. Stir in the olive oil. Adjust the seasoning and serve hot, sprinkled with the chives.

Micol Negrin

Bucatini with Fresh Sardines, Saffron, and Wild Fennel

There are countless variations on this pasta: some call for a bit of tomato to be added instead of saffron; others suggest warming the pasta in the oven after layering it with the sauce; still others call for a dusting of toasted bread crumbs flavored with anchovies. The recipe below includes saffron, pine nuts, wild fennel, and raisins, and the flavor balance is just slightly sweet. This is a sauce that requires a bit of time and patience, but it is one of the pinnacles of Sicilian cuisine and deserves every bit of its fame.

Ingredient notes: Wild fennel can be very hard to find; in Sicily it grows wild, but you may have to substitute the tops and fronds of fennel bulbs. I like to add a bit of ground fennel seeds along with the fennel fronds to better mimic the wild fennel flavor.

Fresh Sardine and Wild Fennel Sauce (Sicily)

 Serves 4

For the sauce:

  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 1 and ½ pounds fresh sardines
  • 1 and ¼  teaspoons salt
  • 10 ounces wild fennel, or tops and feathery fronds from fennel bulbs, minced
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 large yellow onion, very thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground or crushed fennel seeds
  • 2 salted anchovies, boned, gutted, and rinsed, or 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained
  • ½ teaspoon saffron pistils
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 pound bucatini

Make the sauce: Soak the raisins in cool water to cover for 15 minutes; drain and blot dry.

Rinse the sardines. Remove the heads, open them like a book, and remove the innards and bones. Rinse again and blot dry. If possible, try to keep the two filets attached. Select half of the sardines and set aside; these should be the best-looking ones, as they will be fried whole and placed atop the dish when serving.

Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the wild fennel and cook 2 minutes, or until soft. Drain, reserving the wild fennel cooking water to cook the pasta later.

In a deep saucepan large enough to accommodate both the sardines and the pasta later, heat ¼ cup of olive oil until shimmering over medium-high heat. Dredge the  sardines you set aside in the flour, shaking off the excess, and fry until they are golden on both sides and cooked through, about 3 minutes total. Blot dry on paper towels.  Season with ¼ teaspoon of the salt and set aside.  Clean the saucepan and dry it.

Place the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the clean saucepan. Add the onion and ground fennel seeds, and sauté over a medium flame until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the less perfect sardines and cook, stirring and breaking them up with a spoon, about 3 minutes. Add the anchovies and cook until they melt into the sauce, about 2 minutes. Stir in the drained and boiled wild fennel, the saffron, drained raisins, and pine nuts, and season with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Cover and cook 2 minutes; adjust the seasoning and keep warm on a very low heat.

Make the pasta: Return the wild fennel cooking water to a boil. Add the salt and the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water.

Stir the pasta into the sauce and sauté 1 minute to meld the flavors. Adjust the seasoning as needed and dilute if necessary with some of the reserved cooking water. Serve hot, topped with the fried sardines.

Micol Negrin