Squid Ink Mini Vermicelli with Seared Calamari, Fresh Tomato, Lemon & Chilli

Squid or cuttlefish ink takes me to the Mediterranean and remind me of travels to Italy and Spain. Most notably, the salty, deeply flavoured cuttlefish risotto I made in Venice under the expert guidance of Enrica Rocca, similar versions of which are easily available at Venetian restaurants, jet-black paellas in Spain and the multitude of inky-as-night pastas that feature invitingly.

I am always on the look-out for unusual or indigenous food items when we explore – sometimes repeat visits yield new items afresh each time.

I picked up a box of fine short squid ink vermicelli in Andorra three weeks ago, and with careful packing it made the journey more or less unscathed. I don’t think it’s typically Catalan, but rather a combination of a tradition of cooking with the natural ink found in squid and cuttlefish and modern and newly available pasta shapes. I could of course, be very wrong.  I have also brought back squid ink fettuccine and tagliatelle in the past.

I’ve combined the short vermicelli strands here simply in a dish I made a day after we returned from Europe, with seared calamari, fresh tomato, lemon zest and olive oil. A simple combination of flavours and ingredients that compliment each other.

Ingredients

Serves 2

125 ml squid ink pasta, cooked

250 ml small calamari tubes, sliced, plus heads

2 ripe medium sized roma or other tomatoes, cut in 1/8ths

1 small lemon, zested

1 red chilli, chopped

extra virgin olive oil and salt, to taste.

Method

Wash the calamari well, especially the inside of the the tubes, remove the fins if necessary and slice into 1.5 cm pieces. Dry the slices and the heads very well. This may take a bit of kitchen paper towel – the calamari won’t sear and brown if you don’t so this.

In a pan on high heat, add about two tablespoons of olive oil.

Add the calamari in batches, careful not to crowd the pan (a la Julia!)

After 30 – 40 seconds, turn. You want both sides browned, in as little time as possible or else the calamari will become leathery and horrible. Add chillis to the pan a few seconds before the calamari si done. Remove, cover and set aside.

In  a serving bowl or two individual bowls, portion out the pasta. Divide the calamari, tomatoes and zest bewteen the two.

Add a generous glug of olive oil and salt to taste, and toss well. I aslo added a large squeeze of lemon juice and ate this while the calamari was still hot from the pan.

Serve cold on a warm day as a side or main- equally delicious.

A really easy weekday dinner that looks alluring and brings back the magic of Spain and Italy.


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