Squid ink pasta is likely one of those foods you only order when you’re out at a restaurant—if you have adventurous taste buds, of course. But what exactly is it, and how did it become a delicacy? Rumor has it that the pasta dish originated in Sicily, but it’s been a go-to dish for residents of the Italian coast for ages. The meal is also known as spaghetti al Nero and is made with darkish blue-black squid ink as its name suggests, but there are two versions: In one, the ink is actually mixed into the pasta dough; in the other, the ink is added to the sauce. The unique umami flavor comes from the high amounts of glutamic acid found in the ink, giving it its iconic bold taste.
It’s believed the dish became so popular in the coastal towns of Italy because squid is prevalent and fishermen and their families could make the meal without wasting any part of the mollusk (resourceful, right?). Most recently, new research is calling squid ink itself a superfood. A 2013 study found that it contains high levels of antioxidants and has certain lipid oxidation abilities that may decrease our risk of heart disease, although more research needs to be done to prove the latter. Regardless, squid ink pasta is the new It food stateside—both for its flavor and health benefits—and you shouldn’t have to wait for a night out to enjoy it. Below, we’ve rounded up two of our favorite squid ink pasta recipes for you to make at home. Bon appétit!
Squid Ink Pasta With Garlic and Tomatoes
This simple recipe proves that cooking the dish can be far from complicated. All you need to do is buy premade squid ink pasta and cook it in boiling water. Make a “sauce” from olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and white wine (add some of the reserved pasta water if it doesn’t seem to have enough liquid). Pour the sauce atop the pasta, and add some Parmesan cheese if desired. Ta-da! You just cooked squid ink pasta at home.
Squid Ink Pasta With Shrimp and Burrata
Since squid ink already injects your dish with a taste of the sea, it makes sense that it pairs well with other seafood. This dish has a traditional garlic aioli and relies on shrimp to up the seafood flavor. Two ingredients—peas and torn burrata—are so unexpected that they just work.
Vate, N.K., Benjakul, S. Antioxidative Activity of Melanin-Free Ink from Splendid Squid (Loligo Formosana). Int Aquat Res5, 9 (2013)