Calamari ripieni (Stuffed Calamari)

FrankCampania, secondi piatti32 Comments

Calamari ripieni (Stuffed Calamari)

Everybody, it seems, loves fried calamari. But there are lots of other ways to enjoy this tasty mollusk. It’s delicious braised with peas in the Roman manner, for example, or with greens, after the Florentines.

But I think calamari really comes into its own when it’s filled with a savory bread stuffing and simmered in a light tomato sauce. The stuffing adds heft and the sauce adds savor, and result is both rustic and elegant. Stuffed Calamari may be slightly fussier to prepare than some other recipes for this tasty mollusk, but, as they say, the extra effort is well worth it.

You can serve it as a second course or, in small portions, an antipasto. Any leftover sauce is fabulous over spaghetti or linguine.

Ingredients

  • 500g (1 lb) squid, cleaned (see Notes)

For the stuffing:

  • The tentacles from the squid, finely minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1-2 anchovy fillets
  • White wine
  • 100 g (3-1/2 oz) stale bread, cut into small cubes, soaked in water and squeezed dry (or breadcrumbs)
  • A handful of olives, roughly chopped
  • A handful of capers, well rinsed
  • A sprig of fresh parsley, finely minced
  • A pinch of dry oregano
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • A handful of raisins, soaked until soft and squeezed dry (optional)
  • A handful of pine nuts (optional)

To finish the dish:

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 100ml (1/4 cup) white wine, or more if needed
  • 250g (1 cup) passata di pomodoro or chopped canned or fresh tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Directions

Clean the squid if need be and separate the tentacles from the body (see Notes) .

Mince the squid tentacles as finely as you can manage.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and add the garlic and anchovy. When the garlic is just beginning to give off its aroma, add the tentacles and give them a good stir. Pour over the wine and let simmer for a few minutes.

Add the bread (or breadcrumbs), olives, capers, parsley, plus the raisins and pine nuts if using. Give everything a turn, and keep stirring until you have a smooth, soft but compact mixture that comes away from the bottom of the pot. Add a bit more wine if it looks a bit dry or some breadcrumbs if it looks too loose. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then transfer to a mixing bowl and let the stuffing mixture cool.

When the ingredients have completely cooled, add the egg and mix well.

Fill the squid sacs with the stuffing mixture, either using a small spoon or—much easier—a pastry bag (see Notes). Leave some space at the open end and close the squid sacs with a toothpick.

In a sauté pan large enough to fit all the squid in one layer, gently sauté a garlic clove in olive oil. When it is just beginning to brown, remove it. Add the squid and turn them in the oil until they begin to stiffen and turn an opaque white. Then add the wine and let simmer for a few minutes.

Add the tomato, stir to mix it thoroughly into the cooking juices and cover. Let the squid braise until tender, probably a good 30-45 minutes (or longer if your squid is very large).

Serve the squid with their sauce while still warm but not piping hot.

Calamari ripieni (Stuffed Calamari)

Notes

Most squid sold in this country is pre-cleaned of its inedible bits, but if you have whole squid on hand, you’ll need to clean it by removing its skin, separating its tentacles from its body, and removing the innards from the body. This article from Saveur shows you how to do it, step by step.

You can use (within reason) any size of squid you prefer. As a general rule, the larger the squid, the easier it will be to fill, although you’ll need to increase the braising time according to size. You could even use cuttlefish (seppie) if you can find them, although, again, the braising time will be quite a bit longer than indicated here. For this post, on the other hand, I used small calamari, a variety which in Italy might well go by calamaretti. After cooking they were almost bite-sized and very tender. And delicious. But they were quite fussy to fill, even with a pastry bag.

And speaking of which, while a pastry bag is a great convenience for stuffing calamari, if you don’t have one on hand, a Zip-Lock bag, with one of its corners snipped off, works nearly as well. Otherwise, you can use a small spoon to shovel the mixture into the sac, but it is rather tedious work.

Make sure not to over-stuff the calamari or they will tend to burst as they simmer. I’d fill them about 3/4 of the way perhaps, leaving enough room at the open end to skewer the calamari shut with toothpicks. But no worries if the stuffing oozes out a bit while cooking—the taste will still be fine; your dish just won’t be quite as pretty.

Variations

I’ve taken today’s recipe from the estimable Jeanne Caròla Francesconi, doyenne of Neapolitan cookery, and made a few tweaks to suit my personal tastes. For one, Francesconi calls for bread crumbs rather than bread in the stuffing. I hate to throw food out, and I’m always looking for ways to recycle it. But leaving aside economy, I much prefer the smoother texture that reconstituted stale bread lends to the stuffing.

You can play around quite a bit with the stuffing mixture. As mentioned, the raisins and pine nuts are optional. Many recipes leave out the olives— and, truth be told, I think I’ll leave them out next time I make this dish. Some recipes add a bit of Parmesan (belying the old adage about not mixing fish and cheese) for extra umami. Not all recipes call for egg. And today I had some leftover sautéed chard on hand, which I minced finely and folded in. It was perfectly delicious.

As for the sauce, recipes vary a lot in terms of the tomato. Some omit it completely, while others like Francesconi, call for lots more tomato than I have above, which produces a more abundant and ‘redder’ sauce. And if you like, you can add some peas or potato to the braise along with the tomato, for a heftier dish.

You can also bake your calamari ripieni if you prefer rather than braising them. Just pop them into a hot (200C/400F) oven right after you’ve added the tomato in. Cooking times should be about the same as braising. Some people like to top the dish with some breadcrumbs or even grated cheese so it forms a crust as it bakes.

Making Calamari ripieni ahead

This is a dish that reheats nicely. If fact, like a lot of braised dishes, it may get better after a rest. Francesconi says it’s equally good served at room temperature, but I think it’s at its best warm but not piping hot.

Calamari ripieni

Stuffed Calamari
Total Time1 hr
Course: Antipasto, Main Course
Cuisine: Campania, Italian
Keyword: braised
Servings: 4
Author: Memorie di Angelina

Ingredients

  • 500g (1 lb) squid cleaned

For the stuffing:

  • The tentacles from the squid finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 1-2 anchovy fillets
  • White wine
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz0 stale bread cut into small cubes, soaked in water and squeezed dry (or breadcrumbs)
  • A handful of olives roughly chopped
  • A handful of capers well rinsed
  • A sprig of fresh parsley finely minced
  • A pinch of dry oregano
  • 1 whole egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • A handful of raisins, soaked until soft and squeezed dry optional
  • A handful of pine nuts optional

To finish the dish:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 100ml (1/4 cup) white wine or more if needed
  • 250g 1 cup passata di pomodoro or chopped canned or fresh tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Instructions

  • Clean the squid if need be and separate the tentacles from the body.
  • Mince the squid tentacles as finely as you can manage.
  • Heat olive oil in a skillet and add the garlic and anchovy. When the garlic is just beginning to give off its aroma, add the tentacles and give them a good stir. Pour over the wine and let simmer for a few minutes.
  • Add the bread (or breadcrumbs), olives, capers, parsley, plus the raisins and pine nuts if using. Give everything a turn, and keep stirring until you have a smooth, soft but compact mixture that comes away from the bottom of the pot. Add a bit more wine if it looks a bit dry or some breadcrumbs if it looks too loose. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then transfer to a mixing bowl and let the stuffing mixture cool.
  • When the ingredients have completely cooled, add the egg and mix well.
  • Fill the squid sacs with the stuffing mixture, either using a small spoon or—much easier—a pastry bag (see Notes). Leave some space at the open end and close the squid sacs with a toothpick.
  • In a sauté pan large enough to fit all the squid in one layer, gently sauté a garlic clove in olive oil. When it is just beginning to brown, remove it. Add the squid and turn them in the oil until they begin to stiffen and turn an opaque white. Then add the wine and let simmer for a few minutes.
  • Add the tomato, stir to mix it thoroughly into the cooking juices and cover. Let the squid braise until tender, probably a good 30-45 minutes (or longer if your squid is very large).
  • Serve the squid with their sauce while still warm but not piping hot.

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32 Comments on “Calamari ripieni (Stuffed Calamari)”

  1. Frank, yet another wonderful dish from your kitchen to ours. I love the pine nut and raisin addition. At this weeks shop at our fishmonger I shall be scouting out the calamari.

  2. A truly beautiful dish, I particularly love that you used the small calamari, these definitely make a beautiful and delicious hors D’œuvres or appetizer. I’ve made fried calamari but never braised and our most recent trip to Southern Europe, my significant other has expressed delight in consuming this unique creature. I am definitely going to try this as soon as I get home.

  3. What an exquisite recipe Frank. As usual you bring me back to my childhood and in this case to our family vacations near Messina, my mum’s hometown. There are recipe she used to make I have never been able to replicate here in Umbria. We are rich in so many ingredients but the quality of the seafood is never au pair with what I was used to. Thank you for bringing back sweet memories.

    1. Ah yes, the seafood in Sicily really is incomparable, isn’t it? Happy I could bring that those happy memories. 🙂

    1. Definitely worth a try, Jeff! They actually not at all hard to prepare and a lot more economical than eating them in restaurants.

  4. Extraordinary recipe dear Frank! We do have recipes with stuffed calamari in our country too, but almost all of them use rice. We never tried a version with bread and are really looking forward to do so. This seams like on of those old simple ways to make food more hearty with simple ingredients. We are all for zero waste when it comes to food and totally support using stale bread in recipes. Thank you for sharing another gastronomical treasure from your homeland!
    Sending our love
    Mirella & Panos xo

    1. Thanks guys! And funny I’ve never tried calamari stuffed with rice… I’ll have to try that some time soon. All the best, Frank

  5. Hey Frank! I must admit that my calamari knowledge is quite lacking. In fact, I think I’ve only ever had calamari in its fried form…whether as an appetizer with marinara sauce or perhaps on top of a salad. I loved reading this post! I’m all about stuffing foods, so this is a fun way to mix up the usual routine around here. And good tip on the olives…I’ll just eat those separately!

  6. I could happily live on calamari – tho’ mostly prepare it by quick methods have used stuffed versions many times with great success. Shall copy your recipe point by point – have a feeling it will go to the top of the list ! Have normally used some form of tomatoes but not always reached out for the raisins . . .

  7. I can’t wait to try this Frank. We’ve done several different versions of stuffed calamari, but none in a tomato sauce. I love all the ingredients of the stuffing, as well…

    1. Thanks, David! This stuffing was really nice, although as noted I’d skip the olives next time. They were a bit overwhelming.

    1. Please do, Gerlinde. I think you’d enjoy this and other calamari dishes. It’s actually quite easy to make at home, and a lot cheaper, too…

  8. Interesting recipe. I’ve used squid in a tomato sauce for pasta, where it’s cooked for a long time. Never had it stuffed — like the idea. Thanks!

  9. Oh goodness things looks fabulous. Delicate and flavorful and satisfying. I actually don’t like fried calimari cause it’s rarely properly prepared. Usually it’s too greasy. I’d much rather enjoy this dish!

  10. Hi Frank —

    Since Step 8 is braising, how about using a pressure cooker?

    I’ve had great results getting tender calamari in umido from Laura Pazzaglia’s Hip Pressure Cooking.

    1. Pressure cooker would be a great option especially for larger calamari. My only worry here would be the stuffing bursting open under pressure, but it’s definitely worth a try. As you may know, Laura’s blog is my go for tips on pressure cooking.

  11. Xmas eve staple. Stuffed with Italian bread crumbs, raisins, chopped garlic and chopped fresh parsley, Parmesan cheese. This is the recipe I got from my Sicilian neighbors who would sew each one up with needle and thread (I figured out the toothpick thing long time ago, lol). Always baked them on a cookie sheet at 350 for 7 minutes, turned once and baked for an additional 7 minutes. Never had them in sauce.

  12. I saw a Calamari recipe which called for a quick boil in water to prevent the bursting after stuffing. I tried it Christmas Eve and they did hold up very well. I do admit that they were little thick or toucher than usual, but they did not burst open. I think maybe your recipe re frying them a little first may be a good option. I will try the next time I make stuffed calamari. We just use, bread, eggs, cheese, parsley, s/p and chopped garlic for the stuffing. White wine, than fresh tomatoes and either parsley on top after stewing or fresh basil. Always a hit.

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