As they accelerated beneath the graceful expanse of the Ponte degli Scalzi, Langdon smelled the distinctively sweet aroma of the local delicacy seppie al nero-squid in its own ink- which was wafting out of the canopied restaurants along the bank nearby.
-Inferno, Dan Brown
Seppie al nero. Translated from Italian, it means ‘cuttlefish in black’. You might recoil at first glance. But if you can get past the fact that your food is as dark as a new moon nightsky, you’ll find this simple-to-make dish incredibly appetising. Personally I found the whole black lips, black teeth thing hilarious and the food delicious.
A search online found three most common ways this dish is served.
A) Risotto al nero di seppia (risotto)
B) Spaghetti al nero di seppia (spaghetti)
C) Seppie al nero di seppia con polenta (polenta)
We’re serving up the spaghetti version today. In some cases the spaghetti noodles itself are also made with the black ink for a real black black look.
The most nervewracking thing about this dish is how to prep the cuttlefish if you;ve never done it before. What do you throw out? What do you use? Do you use the skin? No skin? Where’s the black sacs? Here’s the photos as best as I could to walk you through preparing the cuttlefish for using in Spaghetti al nero di seppia, seppie al nero di seppia con polenta or risotto al nero di seppia.
The ingredients list for making the spaghetti is further down, however to make a dish for 2-3, I bought 500g of cuttlefish.
Start by rinsing the cuttlefish.
Below, on the left, is a photo of a cuttlefish (and a pairing knife which makes this all easier). You’ll start by grasping the head with one hand and the body with the other and giving it a good strong pull until they seperate. The photo on the right shows the two pieces. In this case, all of the insides came out, however this often isn’t the case. The ink sacs and one or two other bits tend to stay inside.
And don’t have a heart attack if you come across the cuttlefish’s last meal. I pulled out whole fish from two out of five of the cuttlefish. I don’t think I was prepared for it, since it gave me more of a shock than seeing guts.
Take your pairing knife, and cut a slit along the side of the spine, the sharp hard oval shaped bit. You’ll feel it. The skin pulls back easily (as seen in the middle photo below, although the tip snapped off on that one) and you simply slip the bone out.
Your next step is to remove the ink sacs, by pulling or snipping the sacs from the body. Struggling with getting the sac out in one piece? That’s ok. See if you can pour it into a bowl– if that’s a struggle, poke the black bits with a knife, add a bit of water to the insides of the cuttlefish, swirl it around, then pour it through a seive into a bowl. The seive with catch any gunk and you’ll end up with black ink ready to use. That’s what a google search found for me anyway. I found it easy enough to pull the sacs out, so you should be ok with it too.
Remove and discard ‘things’, including membranes like I’m pulling at below.
Next you’ll remove the skin. Take a pairing knife and slit around the edge, trying to get between the skin and flesh. Grasp the flesh of the cuttlefish in one hand and the skin in the other, and pull them apart. It’s as easy as it looks. When you pull the skin and flesh apart, you’ll also be left with two long ‘flaps’ of flesh still attached to the skin. If you have a large enough cuttlefish, it’s worth pulling and using this excess flesh.
Give the flesh a good wash before slicing it into thin strips.
The actual cooking of spaghetti al nero di seppia is straightforward.
- 500g cuttlefish (or squid)
- enough spaghetti for 2-3 serves
- 4 tbsp oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 onion
- ½ cup white wine
- the little black ink sacs from the cuttlefish
- Begin by prepping the cuttlefish (see all the instructions above!)
- Next, cook the spaghetti, drain, and set on a backburner with a lid on to keep warm (stove off though!).
- In a frying pan, heat 2 tbsp of the oil and saute the onion and garlic until golden.
- Add the wine and let it simmer, uncovered, until the liquid has been reduced to half.
- Stir in the black ink sacs, breaking them apart with a spoon.
- Once mixed, add to the spaghetti and continue to keep warm.
- Meanwhile in the frying pan, add the last 2 tbsp of oil and stir fry the cuttlefish on high heat for 1 minute (2 minutes max).
- Stir into the spaghetti and serve.