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Fusilli With Calamari

Fusilli With Calamari
Domenica Marchetti for NPR

Slow-cooking calamari in tomatoes tenderizes the seafood, which in turn yields its rich flavor to the herb- and hot-pepper-spiked sauce. I happened to find a package of long, curly fusilli at a gourmet food shop, which paired perfectly with the sauce. But medium-sized shells, cavatappi (corkscrew-shaped pasta) or another twisted shape that captures sauce will work, too. In a pinch, you can always use spaghetti or linguine. This recipe is adapted from my book The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy (Chronicle Books 2006).

Makes 4 main-course servings

2 pounds cleaned calamari, both sacs and tentacles, washed and thoroughly dried with paper towels

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, passed through a garlic press

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for the pasta water

Generous pinch of red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) stewed tomatoes

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 pound dried pasta, such as fusilli, linguine or spaghetti

With a chef's knife or kitchen scissors, cut the calamari sacs into 1/2-inch-wide rings. Cut each crown of tentacles in half lengthwise to yield bite-sized pieces.

In a large saute pan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring from time to time, for 7 to 8 minutes, or until softened and translucent but not browned. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic and the salt with a fork to form a paste and add the paste to the onion. Add the red pepper flakes and oregano and stir to incorporate everything thoroughly. Stir in the calamari and saute for a minute.

Raise the heat to medium-high and add the wine. Let the mixture bubble for a minute or 2, then pour in the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover and continue to cook the sauce for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until it has thickened and the calamari is completely tender. Stir in the vinegar, raise the heat to high, and cook for about 2 more minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Keep the sauce warm, reheating on low if necessary, while you cook the pasta.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and add a generous quantity of salt. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook according to the manufacturers' instructions until al dente.

Drain the pasta in a colander placed in the sink, taking care to reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot and spoon about 3/4 of the sauce over it. Toss well with a pasta fork to fully incorporate the sauce into the pasta. Add a splash of cooking water if the sauce seems too thick.

Transfer the dressed pasta to a decorative serving bowl and spoon the rest of the sauce over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve immediately.

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