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 dish, known as spaghetti al nero in Italian, is made with dark, 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 high amounts of glutamic acid found in the ink, giving it its iconic bold taste.
Find fresh squid (or cuttlefish) ink at the fresh seafood department of your nearest grocery store (though it might take a few trips), nearest fish market or specialty grocer, or online.
It’s believed the dish became so popular initially out of necessity, before evolving into a fine dining menu item. In the coastal towns of Italy, where seafood (including squid) is abundant, fishermen and their families could make the meal without wasting any part of the mollusk (resourceful, right?). Regardless, squid ink pasta is arguably an It food stateside—and you and loved ones shouldn’t have to wait for a night out to enjoy it.
Below, we’ve rounded up 7 of our favorite squid ink pasta recipes for you to make at home. Bon appétit!
Squid Ink Pasta With Shrimp and Burrata
The Recipe: Squid Ink Pasta With Shrimp and Burrata
Why We Love It: 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 from I Am a Food Blog 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.
Pro Tip: Finish this dish with a drizzle of high-quality olive oil.
Squid Ink Pasta With Shrimp & Cherry Tomatoes
The Recipe: Squid Ink Pasta With Shrimp & Cherry Tomatoes
Why We Love It: A zesty and herby sauce pairs perfectly with shrimp and squid ink pasta in this recipe from Platings + Pairings. Cherry tomatoes, basil, and shrimp also add nice color contrast to the dish.
Pro Tip: "If the sauce seems dry, add in some of the reserved pasta cooking water to achieve your desired consistency," Platings + Pairings recommends.
Black Pasta With Shrimp and Crab
The Recipe: Black Pasta With Shrimp and Crab
Why We Love It: Making fresh, homemade squid ink pasta (or cuttlefish ink pasta, as a good substitute) is a great way to immerse yourself in the kitchen, so save this recipe from White Plate Blank Slate for a time when you won't be rushed. Once the pasta is cut, all you need is peeled shrimp, lump crab, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and white wine.
Pro Tip: Garnish with fresh mint, lemon wedges, and scallions.
Squid Ink Pasta With Shrimp & Mussels in White Wine
Why We Love It: This squid ink pasta recipe (which uses pre-packaged squid ink pasta) from The Communal Feast is a seafood lover's dream—it's packed with shrimp and mussels, plus bacon for extra umami, red pepper flakes for a hit of heat, and breadcrumbs for added texture.
Pro Tip: Garnish with chopped parsley and grated parmesan.
Squid Ink Linguine in Garlic White Wine Tomato Sauce
Why We Love It: We agree with With Skyler in that this recipe is elevated enough to treat yourself or a loved one with a homemade meal without it being overly complicated. You'll need shrimp, squid ink (or cuttlefish) ink linguine, garlic, white wine, balsamic vinegar, lemon, tomato paste, clam juice, and cherry tomatoes.
Pro Tip: "Top generously with fresh parsley, and serve immediately," With Skyler recommends.
Spanish Seafood Pasta
The Recipe: Spanish Seafood Pasta
Why We Love It: When we want to take our tastebuds on a trip to Valencia, Spain we're making Spain on a Fork's Spanish seafood pasta recipe, which transports us to the Gandia region, specifically. This popular dish, called fideuà, involves thin pasta noodles, squid ink, shrimp, monkfish fillets, fish broth, tomato sauce, smoked paprika, saffron, onion, garlic, and lemon.
Pro Tip: "Very important to use high-quality saffron to make this recipe, as this is what really flavor this dish," Spain on a Fork recommends.
Squid Ink Pasta With Mussels
The Recipe: Squid Ink Pasta With Mussels
Why We Love It: Mussels are a natural, briny pairing for squid ink pasta. In this recipe by Kitchen Swagger, pasta and mussels meets a spicy arrabbiata sauce.
Pro Tip: Simmer mussels in a lidded saucepan till they fully open.