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Calamari in umido

Squid Brased in Tomatoes and Red Chili

A classical use for calamari, cooked completely tender in a rich, spicy tomato broth Somewhere along the way in the journey to perfect squid, Americans took a detour to “fried calamari”. Not only was the American ubiquitous “fried food” married with squid, but every last TGIF diner in America learned the Italian name for squid – Calamari. A very bad road had been taken.
This recipe returns to a classical use for calamari, cooked completely tender in a rich, spicy tomato broth that is made to dip bread in. The primary rule for cooking squid is that it be either flash cooked, for just minutes, or slow cooked, for 30 minutes or more. Everything in between will be rubbery. You can clean your own squid or buy frozen, cleaned squid in the freezer section of grocery stores. Defrost by placing in refrigerator overnight, or in a bowl of ice water.

Calamari in umido


  • 3  tablespoons of olive oil

  • 5  peeled garlic cloves, minced

  • ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

  • 2 to 3 pounds of cleaned squid (bodies and tentacles)

  • 1 28-ounce can of whole plum tomatoes (preferable San Marzano)

  • 1 cup of dry white wine

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 8 slices rustic Italian bread, plain or toasted, rubbed with a cut garlic clove


  1. Prepare the calamari by slicing the bodies crosswise into 1/2 inch think rings. Place the rings and tentacles in a colander and rinse well under cold water. Drain well and place squid between ample paper towel sheets and pat dry.

  2. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil olive over medium-low heat and add the garlic and a pinch of the red chili flakes. Cook just until the garlic begins to give off its characteristic aroma, about one minute.

  3. Turn the heat to high and add the calamari to the hot oil. Sauté for about 2 minutes until the calamari turns from translucent white to bright white. The rings and the tentacles will also curl up.

  4. Add the white wine and cook until the wine boils off a little.

  5. Return the heat to medium-low and add the plum tomatoes, squeezing and breaking them up with your fingers as you add them.

  6. Cook the calamari/tomato mixture until the squid is tender, about 30-45 minutes. Stir occasionally.

  7. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.

  9. Serve in a shallow bowl with toasted slices of bread rubbed with a garlic clove.

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