I remember the first time I had a bowl of squid ink pasta, at a little restaurant in Rome right near the Spanish Steps. It’s been almost 20 years, and I can still remember the dish…which says a lot. Fast forward to today, and I’m sitting on the west coast of Spain, in a town called Rota, where cuttlefish bones wash up on the beaches outside out our front door. Supposedly they make great pet bird treats?! There is an abundance of fresh squid here, and they add its ink to everything from rice to pasta. Even though I’m in Spain, this dish has a decidedly Italian flare due to the sauce, which is super easy, and is made by scooping spoonfuls of a crushed Calabrian chili-oil mixture into warm pasta. When I made this, the whole thing took me about 30 minutes, which (for me) is the sign of a great, casual meal. If you don’t like spicy food, use a small amount of the chili paste and a few spoonsful of a good marinara sauce like Rao’s, and you’ll have a fantastic pasta that is a little bit spicy with a bright, tomato base. Serve this with a good French baguette for dipping and a green salad and you’re all set.
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves 4 as a main course
¼ cup olive oil
½ lb medium sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 large garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
1 lemon, zested and juiced
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more for the pasta water
½ lb manila clams
½ lb mussels
½ cup white wine
1 or 2 tablespoons crushed hot Calabrian chili in oil – depending on how much spice you like
½ lb squid ink pasta, like spaghetti (chitarra) or linguine
Fresh basil for garnish
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
While the water is getting hot, heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and shrimp. Cook for a minute or two, or until the shrimp are beginning to curl. Add the garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt to the shrimp and cook for another minute. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl with all of the juices. The shrimp should be tender and just cooked through.
Put the pan back on the stove and add the clams, mussels and white wine. Cover with a lid and steam the shellfish until most have opened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove all of the opened clams and mussels, adding them to the bowl with the shrimp. Keep steaming the remaining shellfish until all have opened. Any shells that haven’t, discard. Pour any broth from the pan into the bowl with the shellfish – just make sure to pour slowly and leave any sediment at the bottom.
Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente – probably around 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of pasta water.
Put the pasta back into the pot. Turn the heat to medium and add the Calabrian chili paste and about ½ cup of pasta water, stirring. Add the shellfish and all juices and stir again. If you want more heat, add more chili paste. If the pasta is too sticky, add a little bit more pasta water until the sauce nicely coats the pasta.
Serve with fresh basil sprigs.