Fettuccine with Cuttlefish Ink Sauce, Spezzamollica & Finocchio
Styling: Anita Parise & Renee Lenzarini
Blog: Anita Parise
Photography: Anita Parise with Renee Lenzarini
Recipe & Inspiration: The Lenten Season and Good Friday
“Speaking with Renee these past few weeks after we finished our Carnevale recipes, we were left feeling all nostalgic. This time was so special to the both of us because we cooked our nonna’s much loved recipes. It was only natural for me to think of other times of celebration in my family that were also treasured. Timing considered, Good Friday sprang to mind. My family has decided to honour our cultural and religious beliefs this year and abstain from eating meat on the Fridays observed during Lent. This decision though, has raised a challenge surrounding what I am going to make for dinner! Grilled fish is always a family favourite but I wanted to do something different leading up to Good Friday.
To me, as a young child, Good Friday was not about the solemnity of the Catholic event that happened on that day, but the day I would get to spend with my cousin. We would have our annual championship playoff of a game we had invented and played in my nonna’s laundry. As we got older, I appreciated that this day was not only about the crucifixion of Jesus, but about the of closeness my family; which was created by our Nonni and their food. This day, traditionally for most Italian families, was a day that no meat was consumed. A feast of traditional baccala, polpette della nonna (poor man’s meatballs – made with only cheese, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley and cooked in sauce) fried squid, and of course what I called the black sauce pasta, always featured on the menu. Today’s recipe is exactly that – my nonna’s black sauce or pasta with squid ink. This was always served with spezzamollica (golden fried breadcrumbs) and the tops and stems of wild finocchio that was growing in nonno’s garden.
Like some dishes, the origin of squid ink sauce are argued about. From my knowledge there are 2 versions, one from the area around Catania and one from Venice. The difference being is that the Venetians don’t use a tomato sauce base and the Sicilians do. This recipe may be strange to some, as it’s not overly common. With the help of chefs around the world who have introduced squid ink into their culinary delights and marketed it as a bold delicacy, rich in flavor and presentation, its popularity has spiked in recent years.
Like all seafood recipes, the best way to eat this dish … is fresh. Early Friday morning I headed into Leederville and went into Kailis Fish Market, in hope of finding a whole squid or cuttlefish. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw all the fresh cuttlefish on ice. They appeared fresher than the squid, so I went with that option. The reason why I wanted it whole and fresh is because of the ink sac that I required to make the sauce. The process of cleaning a cuttlefish is not dissimilar to cleaning a whole squid, but for those who would like to see exactly how to clean a cuttlefish without damaging the ink sac I have found a great video, click here to see it. If you are unable to obtain a whole fresh cuttlefish/squid OR if you don’t like the idea of preparing this yourself then there is an alternative – do not despair, you can buy the ink in little sachets at specialty stores like Fresh Provisions Mt Lawley.
So if you are prepared to be different and try something new, or, perhaps want to recreate one of your own family favourites this Good Friday – this is the recipe for you.
We hope that this inspires you all to try this odd yet surprisingly familiar dish with your families.
Serving Suggestion: We recommend serving the glossy pasta immediately adorning it with the spezzamollica and fried finocchio. The addition of chilli to the dish is optional.
Ciao for now & Buon Appetito,
Anita & the GR Team”
- 500g of fresh Golden Ravioli Fettuccine
- 500ml of Golden Ravioli Sugo alla Napoletana
- 1 whole cuttlefish, cleaned and cut into strips
- 1 ink sac (found in the cuttlefish or you could use a sachet of ink)
- A generous amount of olive oil
- ~ 1 cup of breadcrumbs
- A handful of the tops and stems of wild finocchio (you can also use dill if you do not have access to this)
- 1 tablespoon of cooking salt
- Some chilli (optional)
- Prepare a large pot of salted water for the pasta – bring to boil with the lid on, then turn it off so it is ready to go.
- Prepare your sauce as per usual - we used Golden Ravioli's Sugo alla Napoletana. In a saucepan using a few tablespoons of oil, warm the sauce over a medium heat.
- Clean the cuttlefish, keeping the ink sac intact and set them aside (see Blog for a step by step video), or if you just have the tubes, cut them into thin strips of about 1cm x 4cm pieces.
- Just before the sugo comes to the boil add the ink. * Note: A little goes a long way. Add a small amount at a time until the depth of colour is achieved. If using fresh sacs, it’s a good idea to empty the sacs in a small ramekin, adding a little hot water to thin it out before pouring into the sauce. The more ink you use, the stronger the flavour and darker the colour of the dish. I always advise to taste as you go and adjust accordingly.
- Once the ink has been added and the sauce cooked through, add the cuttlefish pieces and cook for approximately 30 minutes. * Note: this time may also vary depending on the thickness of your cuttlefish - the pieces should be tender and not rubbery. Again, it’s a good idea to test your squid at about the 15 minute mark. Once your squid is nice and tender your sauce is done!
- In a frying pan, heat approximately ¼ cup of olive oil so it’s very hot. Drop in the cleaned and dry dill, fry this carefully until crispy. * Note: This should only take about 10 - 15 seconds as it is very delicate. If you are using the wild finocchio this may take longer as the stalks are thicker. Set this aside on absorbent paper.
- Turn on your pot of boiling water again and bring to the boil. Add the fettuccine and cook until al dente. While the fettuccine are cooking, using the same oil as the dill was cooked in, add 1 cup of breadcrumbs and combine until they are completely coated (the spezzamollica!) Keep mixing the crumbs as they will colour quickly. You want a dark (but not burnt) golden colour. They will have a crunchy texture. Set aside to cool.
- Strain the pasta and mix in some of the sauce. Plate immediately, and serve with the spezzamollica and finocchio.