Pasta with squid (calamari) is very popular here in Italy especially in the coastal Central and Southern regions. Of course, recipes differ from region to region, not only in the way they cook the squid, but the type of pasta used varies too. This easy Italian squid pasta recipe with garganelli comes from Abruzzo. It has just a handful of fresh ingredients apart from the pasta and squid and is a super seafood pasta recipe all the family will love!
Totani o calamari con garganelli.
I found this recipe in an Italian cookbook of mine with recipes from Abruzzo and Molise. This book is part of a collection of great regional recipes. In the book, this easy Italian squid pasta recipe calls for totani (European flying squid) rather than calamari. So, what’s the difference between totani and calamari?
The difference between European flying squid and calamari.
At first glance, European flying squid (totani in Italian) and calamari look almost the same. However, there are some slight differences in appearance. Calamari are usually more pink/purplish and sometimes even red. Totani are a lighter brown orange colour. Also, the side fins of calamari start mid-way down the body. Whereas in totani, these fins are at the end of the body and are more triangular.
Italians refer to totani as the poor man’s calamari! This is most probably because they cost less at the fishmongers. In general, Italians prefer calamari as the meat is tastier and softer. The meat of totani can be harder and tougher. However, I’ve found that if you freeze totani they become just as soft as calamari when defrosted and cooked. Needless to say, you can use calamari for this pasta recipe from Abruzzo.
Both European flying squid and calamari live mostly in sandy or muddy bottoms and rise to the surface of the sea in cold periods, usually from November to March. In addition, they both produce a dark blue ink. Interestingly, although many people refer to the ‘black’ ink that is used in various Italian pasta or risotto dishes as squid ink, it is actually mostly cuttlefish ink that is used in Mediterranean cuisine, even if the label says squid ink!
How to cook calamari and totani.
Like octopus and cuttlefish, calamari and totani can be cooked either long and slow at low temperatures or very fast at high temperatures, such as frying or grilling. This is because these animals have a lot of connective tissue.
When cooked fast, the tissues don’t have time to harden so the meat stays soft and tender. In fact, you can even eat them raw! The Japanese make calamari sushi! When slow cooked, the connective tissues break down and the meat becomes tender.
For this easy Italian squid pasta recipe, the squid cooks very quickly. In fact, this dish can be on the table in the time it takes you to boil the water and cook the pasta (if you are using dried pasta).
Garganelli or maccheroncini de pettine.
The cookbook I followed calls for maccheroncini di pettine in this easy Italian squid pasta recipe. Traditionally, this pasta is made by rolling fresh egg pasta dough squares diagonally around a wooden stick and then creating ridges by rolling the resulting penne like pasta tubes over the comb of a weaving loom to create ridges.
Nowadays, many people make maccheroncini de pettine using a wooden board similar to a gnocchi board. The resulting pasta is almost identical to garganelli. The main difference between maccheroncini de pettine and garganelli is the size. The former are larger. In fact, traditionally they were made with pasta squares exactly the same size as those used to make tortellini. Garganelli are half the size.
I wanted to make the pasta for this recipe myself but then remembered I had given my gnocchi board to a friend and not replaced it! Definitely going to order one asap from my favourite pasta tool making company Tagliapasta.com.
In the meantime, I bought dried green and yellow garganelli to use in this pasta recipe from Abruzzo. You can use either garganelli, maccheroncini de pettine or even normal ridged or smooth penne or short ziti.
The other ingredients.
Apart from the pasta and squid, this recipe has just a handful ingredients. The sauce includes spring onions, garlic, white wine, chives and cherry tomatoes. I used cherry tomatoes from a town in Sicily called Pachino. Pachino tomatoes are the most well-known Sicilian tomatoes, particularly the cherry tomato variety. In fact, these have an IGP certification from the European Union.
The IGP label means that the produce or product is guaranteed to come from a particular geographical area. Pachino tomatoes are quite sweet and are often combined with seafood dishes, as well as being popular in Italian salads and side dishes.
Of course, you can use other types of cherry tomatoes in this squid pasta recipe. I don’t recommend using canned tomatoes as they will change the taste and consistency of the dish.
How to make this easy Italian squid pasta recipe.
If you are using fresh squid you may need to clean it, although you can ask your fishmonger to do that. I bought fresh totani, my hubby cleaned it and then we froze it. Frozen squid or even octopus and cuttlefish tend to be more tender than fresh. So, these cephalopods are one of the few foods I often use from frozen.
How do you clean squid?
To clean fresh squid, you need to hold the squid tail in one hand and the head in the other. Firmly pull the two ends apart while twisting slightly. The head and innards should detach from the body easily.
The tentacles and body tube are edible, while the head behind the tentacles and the innards should be thrown away. The squid ink sac is attached to the innards. I throw it away, but some people like to detach it and use the ink.
If you are going to use the tentacles, which I did in this squid pasta recipe, you need to cut them off the head and then remove the ‘beak’. The squid beak is a bony piece of inedible cartilage that is located at the base of the tentacles where they connect to the head. Once the tentacles are cut from the head, squeeze the connective tissue at the top and the beak should come out easily.
Finally, remove the thin clear sliver of cartilage from inside the body of the squid by holding the end of the cartilage with your fingers and pulling it out of the body. Some people also remove the fine outer skin on the squid’s body. This is edible so it’s really a question of appearance. Wash the squid well before cutting and cooking it.
Preparing the ingredients.
Once you have cleaned the squid, if necessary, then you need to cut the body into thin rings and the tentacles in small pieces. Then just wash the tomatoes and cut them into quarters, peel and chop the onion and peel the garlic. Finally wash and chop the chives into small pieces.
How to cook this squid pasta recipe.
Once all the ingredients are prepped this recipe comes together pretty fast. So, it’s a good idea to put the water on to boil for the pasta first. Add salt once it begins to boil. Next, sauté the spring onion and garlic in olive oil until they start to soften. Then add the squid pieces and cook them on a high heat for 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and wine. Let the alcohol evaporate, add salt and pepper to taste and finally lower the heat and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes. When the sauce is ready add the chives and remove from the heat. Easy right?
Once the pasta is cooked, save a little pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. Add the drained pasta to the sauce mix and serve. You can add a little pasta cooking water if you think the sauce too dry.
Italians don’t usually add cheese to seafood pasta dishes. You can serve this easy Italian squid pasta dish sprinkled with a few more chopped chives and some freshly ground black pepper. We also added a little peperoncino (red chilli pepper flakes) which gave the dish a nice kick! If you are a spice lover, highly recommended!
With or without a little spice, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this easy Italian squid pasta recipe from Abruzzo. It’s so fast and easy to prepare, flavourful and pretty healthy! What more could you want?
If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out. Please write a comment here on the blog, email me or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.
Your feedback is really appreciated!
Easy Italian squid pasta recipe from Abruzzo
- 450 g squid calamari/totani (1lbs) cleaned and cut into pieces
- 320 g garganelli (11 oz) or other pasta tubes
- 300 g cherry tomatoes (10.5 ozs) washed and quartered
- 40 g spring onions (1.5ozs) peeled and chopped
- 1-2 garlic cloves peeled
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
- 1/2 glass white wine
- fresh chives chopped
- salt for pasta and to taste
- freshly ground black pepper. to taste
- peperoncino flakes (red chili pepper) optional
Prepare the ingredients
- If necessary, clean the squid. (See content above for instructions) and then cut the body into thin rings and the tentacles into small pieces. Peel the garlic and chop the spring onions. Wash the tomatoes and cut into quarters.
Cook and serve
- Sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the squid pieces and cook on a high heat for 5 minutes stirring frequently so they don’t burn. Lower the heat and add the tomatoes and wine and salt and pepper to taste. Allow the alcohol to evaporate and then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove the garlic. Add the chopped chives and remove from the pan the heat.
- Cook the pasta al dente in boiling salted water according to the instructions on the packet. When ready, save a ladle of pasta cooking water and drain. Add the pasta to the sauce and mix everything together. If the sauce seems dry, pour in a little pasta cooking water and mix again.
- Serve this easy Italian squid pasta recipe with some more chopped chives and some peperoncino if you like it.
Other calamari (squid) pasta recipes to try.
- Neapolitan paccheri with calamari and potatoes
- Pasta with cuttlefish and peas
- Pasta with calamari and datterini tomatoes
- La calamarata from Naples
More garganelli recipes on The Pasta Project.
- Garganelli alla Zingara
- Pasta with tuna Bolognese
- Italian braised onion sauce with garganelli
- Pasta with Romagna shallots and guanciale
- Garganelli with zucchini flowers, saffron and ham
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If you are interested in learning how to make homemade pasta and different types of gnocchi, check out my shop page for some great video online courses from my friends in Rome! Nothing beats learning to make pasta from Italians! Plus while you’re there why not order a copy of one of my pasta recipe cookbooks or checkout some recommended pasta making tools? All great prezzies for pasta lovers!FacebookPinterestCondividi
I have never made a dish with squid or calamari, but I have tried calamari at an Italian restaurant once. You always make your recipes look simple and delicious.
This wonderful pasta recipe was amazing! I loved all the flavors. I can’t wait to make it again. It was so delicious! I am looking forward to checking out some of your pasta recipes on your blog! Have a great day, and thanks for sharing this fantastic recipe!
I loved this recipe. Thank you for including the instructions on how to clean the squid. That was very helpful.
Mmm I love pasta seafood and this looks absolutely delicious! What a comforting meal.
Veronika Sykorova says
Thanks for explaining the difference between Squid and Calamari, I totally thought the two were the same! I’m making this pasta tomorrow, can’t wait! Any kind of sea food or fish is always my favorite in pasta.
We love calamari and this was so delicious! I will make this again soon 🙂
Kayla DiMaggio says
This Italian Squid Pasta was so delicious! I loved every bite!
Thank you for not only the detailed step by step prep and cooking instructions, but also the differences in Squid and Totani. We opted for Squid and the quick cooking method. A very rich succulent meal that we will enjoy again and again!
Amanda Mason says
yum yum yum! I love anything with calamari!! I’ve never made it at home on my own so I’m super excited to make this!! I’ll let you know how it turns out!!
You know, I have never cooked with squid…ever! I am so intimidated by it but your tips make it sound like something I could try. I sure wish I could try those tomatoes, they must really be something special.
PS. I didn’t know squid could fly…. 🙂
I have never tried squid before. I feel I need to expand my palate and give it a try! Your recipe sounds delicious!