Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pasta alla capricciosella -



Serves 4-6 people
For 400g (14 oz.) spaghetti, bavette or linguini (or other long pasta of your choice)
  • 500g (1 lb) baby squid, cleaned and roughly chopped (see Notes)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
  • Olive oil
  • White wine
  • 200g (7 oz) cherry or grape tomatoes, split in half (see Notes)
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) mushrooms, roughly sliced or chopped (see Notes)
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) peas, frozen or fresh
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper


In a sauté pan large enough to hold all the pasta, sauté the garlic cloves in abundant olive oil over moderate heat until they are just beginning to brown. Remove the garlic cloves and add the chopped calamari. Season with salt and pepper, stirring so that all the little pieces are nicely coated with the flavored oil. Turn the heat down to very low and cover the pan.
Let the squid braise until it is very tender, about 20-30 minutes for baby squid, 45-60 minutes for ‘regular’ squid. The squid will give off a fair amount of liquid to begin with, but as it cooks it may dry out, in which case add a few spoonfuls of water or wine from time to time to keep things moist. The squid itself should be much reduced in size and darken as its liquid cooks out; this is perfectly normal.
While the squid is cooking, start the pasta water going, then prep your veggies.
When the squid is done, uncover it, increase the heat to medium-high and add the white wine. Let the wine reduce, then add your veggies. Mix well to cover them completely with the sauce in the pan. Season well with salt and pepper as you stir.
Then, once again, reduce the heat and cover the pan. Let the veggies braise until the mushrooms are tender, about another 10 minutes or so. The tomatoes will soften and begin to ‘melt’ into the sauce, but not completely. A minute or two before the end, add half of the chopped parsley.
Just when you cover the pan again, salt the boiling water very well and add your pasta, making sure that . it should be done about the same time as your veggies. When it is done very al dente, add the pasta to sauce in the sauté pan. Lower the heat as low as it will go, and mix it all up so that the pasta is well coated with the sauce. If things are a bit dry or sticky, add some more pasta water to loosen things up. The pasta should not be at all watery but slight ‘slither’ around the pan easily.
Serve immediately in warmed pasta dishes. The best way to do this is to grab a good portion of pasta with some tongs (or a pasta fork) and swirl it into the dish. Then spoon out a nice portion of the sauce, with squid and veggies, too, on top of the pasta. If you like, sprinkle a bit of fresh parsley on top for garnish, perhaps with un filo d’olio—a drizzle of olive oil, no cheese.


I can find baby squid, pre-cleaned and frozen, in my local supermarket. It is a real god-send. Baby squid (or calamaretti) are much more tender then ‘regular’ squid and have a wonderfully sweet flavor. But if you can only find the larger kind, no worries, it will just need to cook longer to reach that point of perfect tenderness at which the squid becomes almost ‘creamy’. Most squid sold in the US these days comes pre-cleaned.
The recipe does not specify cherry tomatoes, and in summer you could use fresh tomatoes in season. But cherry tomatoes do a very nice job, adding a bit of color and tomato flavor without overwhelming the dish. If you want to add canned tomatoes, add fewer and let the veggies cook longer than indicated above, holding back the peas for the first 5 minutes or so, so they don’t overcook.
As for the mushroom, garden-variety cultivated supermarket mushrooms are fine—in fact, the recipe calls for them—but I like those packs of mixed mushrooms. I would not use expensive wild mushrooms for this dish, however—not worth the price in a simple dish like this, where their taste would, in any event, be playing second-fiddle to the squid.
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