pasta that stands out in a crowd
Several years ago, three of us went to a newly-opened restaurant here in Portland by the name of Fin. Great name for a (primarily) fish restaurant, no? One plate after another was brought to us, bearing exquisite-tasting and exotic-looking creations, works of culinary art, in very small portions…each with just a few bites to share. We saw one on this tasting menu using “Squid Ink Pasta” and our eyebrows went up and our eyes grew wide and we looked at each other with question marks across our foreheads that read, “Dare we?” We did! And what a good move that turned out to be!
About a year later, Fin closed its doors…lost its lease, through no fault of its owners…the landlord just wanted another and quite different use for the property. We have so many very good restaurants in Portland, but we were sad to see Fin go.
How I’d like to thank them for first introducing us to this intoxicatingly delicious, love at first bite, pasta. The one thing I know to do is to share the good noodle news with you’s!
This wasn’t the way it was prepared for us the first night we dined at Fin, but I’ve been thinking of preparing it like this for quite some time. And, turns out, it was as good as a very good food dream can be.
Before we get to the recipe, a word about the pasta. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? Pasta as black as winter’s midnight! It still has the tooth-feel of a good spaghetti or fettucini noodle, but with a certain inexplicable velvety silkiness. Don’t think for a minute that I mean slippery like an eel! I mean smooth (and please, when you say it, say it slowly, drawing out those oo’s!) It tastes a bit of the sea, a little briny, but not salty. It will cost you a little more, and it may be hard for some of you to find, depending on your markets nearby, but it’ll be worth the hunt and worth a few extra dollars (only a few!) for a meal…this…this..indescribably good. (If you have trouble locating the pasta locally, you can order from Amazon. There are several names and sizes to choose from. Here’s one Italian brand I like a lot – the link here.)
I recently discovered a wonderful article in Cooks Illustrated on how to prepare (perfect, yes I’ll use the word) shrimp under the broiler. Being thus equipped, it was a cinch to put these two together. You’d have done it too…
Shrimp & Squid-Ink Pasta with Lemon & Basil
This all comes together pretty quickly…once you get those rascally shrimp clean and deveined. But be sure to leave the shells and tails on…lots of good flavor in those shells, and they share it with the shrimp as they cook. (Though of course you’re permitted to take them off before you eat.) The cleaned & butterflied shrimp are then dropped into a brine for 15 minutes before cooking. That will give you plenty of time to gather the rest of your dinner.
Garlicky Roasted Shrimp
( serves 4 to 6 )
Salt – ¼ cup
Shell-on Jumbo Shrimp – 2 pounds (16-20 per lb)
Unsalted Butter – 4 Tablespoons
Vegetable Oil -¼ cup
Garlic – 6 cloves, minced
Red Pepper Flakes – ½ teaspoon
Black Pepper – ¼ teaspoon
Fresh Parsley – 2 Tablespoons minced
Garnish: Lemon Wedges
Dissolve salt in 1 quart cold water in a large container. (It will take you some long minutes to prepare the shrimp so I wouldn’t add to the brine until you’ve got them all done so they’re all flavored equally.)
Using kitchen shears or a sharp paring knife, cut through the shell and devein but do not remove the shell. Using a paring knife, continue to cut the shrimp ½-inch deep, taking care not to cut in half completely. (See Illustration.)
Submerge the shrimp in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Adjust oven rack 4 inches from broiler element and pre-heat the broiler. Combine melted butter, oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and pepper in a large bowl. Remove shrimp from brine, pat dry with paper towels then add shrimp, along with the parsley, to the butter mixture. Toss well, making sure that the butter mixture gets into the interior of the shrimp. Arrange on a wire rack set into a rimmed baking sheet.
Broil until shrimp are opaque and shells are beginning to brown on the top side, 2 to 4 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through the broiling. Then flip shrimp over and continue to broil until second side is opaque and shells are beginning to brown, another 2 to 4 minutes, rotating halfway through. (Very doubtful this will require anything close to 8 minutes total time!)
You may think now to plop these beauties onto pasta – and how lucky! That’s the very thing I’m recommending!
I’ve paired this pasta with a couple herbs and with lemon, three ways – the tart juice, the bright zest, and the Incomparable Preserved Lemon. (You can omit the preserved lemon if you wish, but I don’t know why you would! : ] If you still haven’t made your own, you can buy them already prepared. In an upcoming Spreenkle I’ll share a quick trick for making a reasonable facsimile much faster in your freezer – or Google it and you’ll see the method. I still prefer the slower method though.)
Squid-Ink Pasta with Lemon & Basil
( serves 4 with shrimp )
Squid-Ink spaghetti, fettucini, linguini, capellini (your choice) – 8 ounces
Juice of 1½ – 2 Lemons
Lemon Zest – from the juiced lemons
Preserved Lemon (the rind only, finely-diced) – from ½ lemon – rinsed well, pulp removed
Unsalted Butter – 3 Tablespoons
Extra-virgin Olive Oil – 3 Tablespoons
White Wine – a good Splash
Basil Leaves – 16 medium to large ones
Italian Parsley – 1½ Tablespoons chopped
Salt – to taste
Freshly-ground Pepper – to taste
Have warm a large pasta serving bowl and/or individual pasta bowls.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. (Pasta water should be as salty as the sea.) Follow the pasta maker’s instructions for cooking time. Meanwhile:
Into a large skillet (large enough to accommodate the cooked pasta), add the butter, olive oil, lemon juice, splash of white wine and finely-diced preserved lemon (rind only). (Don’t add the zest just yet.) Maintain a low heat under the pan, enough to keep the butter melted and the mixture warm.
Roll basil leaves into a tight cigar and slice thinly cross-wise. (Chiffonade.) Roughly chop the parsley. Remove the zest from 1½ lemons. Add these to the skillet just prior to serving.
When the pasta is al-dente, reserve ½ cup of the cooking water (add only if the sauce you have doesn’t adequately coat the pasta) and drain the pasta. Add the cooked, drained pasta and toss well with the other ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with a little extra zest and serve promptly.
(If you’re making this pasta – or any other type pasta – using this recipe, but without the shrimp, add freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano if desired.)
The other day I shared a recipe for a nutty crunchy golden granola. It plays a starring role in many a breakfast around here. We couldn’t finish all the shrimp from last night’s dinner, so this morning the Guinea Pig was forced to have a shrimp, feta and basil omelet for breakfast. I know…poor dear. He endures so much, this little guy, on our behalf. He deserves a good measure of compassion. (Though he’d probably prefer another omelet.)
To print the recipes, click here.
We still haven’t tried this, which is bad since it was so popular in Venice where we honeymooned. This looks fantastic.
Thanks Greg. I’ll whisper so word doesn’t get out that I’m bragging or something (it was pretty fantastic…some around the table licked their fingers and bowls.) And lucky you to have honeymooned in Venice! 🙂
Squid ink pasta is wonderful. What a lovely post. Those shrimp are beautiful.
Thank you so much Connie! Lovely to see you here and happy knowing another thinks squid ink pasta is wonderful!
Such a striking looking dish, and of course, like all your food, it must taste wonderful too!
The pasta does have a certain presence doesn’t it? Kind of a show off, but ask me if I care! 🙂
Merci, merci Michelle!
I’ve never heard of such a thing! So bummed we never did get to visit Fin with you, but the inspiration they provided here is wonderful. I agree with the commenter above, this dish is so striking! As are those lovely curled shrimp placed just so. Always beautiful and inspirational, Ma. Really, you amaze me.
Well, then this is my mistake because I should have spoken to you about it long ago…too bad, so sad that I didn’t raise you on this fine noodle instead of the slop that I fed you! 😉 !! Thank you sweetie for the compliments! :)x
It seems to me naming your restaurant Fin is tempting fate, assuming you have at least a smattering of French.
Perfection, Spree! This is a beautiful dish of pasta that you’ve created. I had pasta served in sepia ink while in Venice, an incredible dish. Its scent was of the ocean and the sauce, for lack of a better term, was as black as could be. I’d never experienced anything like it before or since. I’ve yet to find sepia ink or pasta here since that trip. Your beautiful dish has reminded me of that dinner. Maybe I should ask around again to see if I can find it here. Whether I find it, Spree, this is a post that I cannot wait to show Zia. I can guarantee she’s going to be every bit as impressed as I am. 🙂
Sepia ink John? Is that what you meant to say? Have never heard of it! Is that how they refer to squid ink in Italy? Well, in any event, I’m very happy to remind you of a wonderful meal you enjoyed in Venice! My work here is done! 🙂 PLEASE tell me what your Zia has to say, ok? I’d love to know. (To be more honest, and fully disclosive, I’d love to meet her…and you! And I’d like nothing more than to watch the two of you at play in the kitchen…ok that’s not entirely true…I’d like even more to eat what you two made while at play in the kitchen!) Thank you John for your always encouraging comments! Really fun to have you as friend!
Sepia (cuttlefish) are similar to squid and are far more available in Italy than they are here. (If you’ve owned a parakeet, maybe you had a “cuttle” bone in its cage?) I was a little boy when I last saw them here and that’s about the last time Zia remembers seeing them, too. Although I’ve never tasted the inks side-by-side for a comparison, I have to believe they are very similar in taste and their effect — bringing the sea to the dish — is the same. Either way, you’ve started me on a quest to find black pasta here. If some is to be found here, I’ll find it!
I’m certain Zia would love to meet you and what fun we’d all have in the kitchen together! First, though, we’d have to make some pasta, a little ricotta, and a pot of bolognese — then watch what happens! 🙂
Yes, here they sell it as both sepia and squid ink…it’s pretty much the same. They often sell it in tiny frozen bags…you don’t need much! This pasta is so beautiful and I really should rememebr to buy/make/eat it more! Love grilled cuttlefish too by the way…but have only ever eaten it in Spain or Italy.
Tanya, I learn so much from you and John! Have you bought the ink? If so, what’d you use it in? Don’t you just love this blackened pasta!? Yes, you must remember to get yourself some soon!
Yes, I’ve used it in squid ink risotto…delish!
Squid Ink Risotto?!! be.still.my.heart!!
i DID own a parakeet (or she owned me) as a girl and she DID have a cuttle bone! Did you see Tanya’s remark after yours? She says that in Spain they’ll sell the sepia ink frozen in little bags. You just may be able to find it in an Italian market? How absolutely wonderful if you were able to make your OWN sepia-inked pasta!! OH The possibilities! You’d have a ready student in me if you ever found the way! In any case, I DO hope you find some black pasta for yourselves! (And after pasta, ricotta and a pot of bolognese, AND some wine, there’d be some singing and dancing in the Bartolini kitchen! I don’t do either well, but that wouldn’t stop me! 🙂 )
I searched my Italian market and didn’t find any black pasta nor ink. “My” fishmonger wasn’t around, though, and I’ll ask him this week. I’ve not given up yet — far from it. I’ll let you know. And we aren’t singers or dancers either — but it never stopped us! You’ll fit right in. 🙂
Shame for Fin! But that pasta dish looks amazing – it definitely stands out! Yum 😀
Yes, a real shame it was! And yes, yum! 🙂
Isn’t squid ink pasta just one of the most beautiful things in the world? I never cook with it, but have it when I run across it on a menu every now and then. I am not sure I can actually taste the difference between this pasta and others, but the beauty is worth it all.
I agree Teresa…a real knock-out this one! If I knew you better, I’d press on you to make a plate of your own! Prepared with just this simple lemon basil sauce, that subtle flavor of the pasta survives very well. Even if it didn’t though, I think to have something so pretty on the plate might alone be worth the price. 🙂 Thanks so much for the comment.
Beautifully done. Love the recipe, the photos and the story about how you were introduced to squid ink pasta. Baby Lady & I adore squid ink pasta. I definitely makes a statement on a plate (or in a bowl).
Thank you Very much Richard! You’re not a man easily impressed, so I take the compliment as extra sweet! 🙂 And I guess it’s no secret after my raves, we adore it too!
Isn’t it just the best, spree, when you’re able to recreate a favourite dish from a special night in a very special restaurant.. with extra special company as well. Now that’s what I call the best sort of cooking! I’ve never eaten black pasta and will forthwith have my eyes peeled looking for some. We’ve a few shops that come to mind that would probably have some.. I’ve just never been on the look out for it before. I’ve just finished some dismal left-overs (shhh) and my mouth is salivating for a plate of this lovely ocean fare! xxx
(speaking in a very soft voice, so only you can hear…there needs to be some urgency about this mission, smidge! I don’t want to panic you or anything…but finding yourself some squid ink pasta needs to rank high on your list of priorities…You are SO going to love this! With or without the shrimp, pair it with any seafood you especially like…but do it with this simple lemon sauce…and your eyes will roll back and you will sigh and sigh again. Despite temptations to do otherwise, go slow, savor. This is sublime fare! You can thank me later…) xxx
Ohboyohboyohboy! Glamorous, flavorful and downright magical. Yippee! xoxo
ohboyohboy…exactly! 🙂 (are you still staying away from gluten Kathryn? I’ve lost track. It would be such the pity!) xo!
Every time I have visited Venice, squid ink pasta is one dish that I enjoy. I like how you paired it with the preserved lemon.
Thank you Karen. The two got on VERY well together!
Oh Spree I am so delighted you wrote this post. I have a bag of dried squid ink pasta in my cupboard from my last trip to Italy still waiting for the perfect recipe and now I have found it.
Bam! I am so excited for you! And so happy to have helped you find the “perfect” way to fix it…you will so savor every bite, I do believe!
Wow I’ve never tried squid ink pasta. I’m now inspired to make it 🙂
You will not be sorry! Guaranteed!
Thank you for planning my last meal on earth. I’ll update my will.
This is “good noodle news!” Looks so vibrant on a white plate with shrimp and green. I would love a mouthful right now. This is a dinner for royalty.
A wonderful looking dish Antoinette, meticulous in the details of the recipe complimented by terrific images. I hope you have a great week….liking the new logo and font.
I’m eating breakfast, but I’m hungry for THIS!!! Looks delicious.
I was going to say that I was enchanted by your post Spree, I really need to go hunting for this past but then I got lost in your conversation with Tanya and John. I love the things I learn from all of you my talented friends! Thank you for making my world richer!
What has happen here …. this I have missed completely – so sorry, stunning dish as always.
Love the look of this dish – but I’m not very fond of the ink pasta, had at “Aquavit” in NYC about 8 years ago … with lobster – it stands out on the plate – fantastic presentation, but that was all.
I love the prawn recipe, have to buy the big prawns in Germany .. we can’t get them because of environmental issues – so nobody buy them in and sell them in Sweden anymore.
So I will save this … until I go back to Germany for more shopping. Happy Springtime.
Beautiful pasta and photos…especially the one with squid ink pasta written across it. Such a bummer when you have to say goodbye to a good restaurant.
I’m loving the garlicky shrimp!
Absolutely beautiful! I’d love to sit down to a plate of this right now. And it’s just after breakfast. Lol!
What a beautiful dish this makes with that velvety black pasta next to the coral-pink shellfish. And the flavors must be really wonderful. I haven’t tasted a squid ink pasta, but recently purchased some exotic black rice that i haven’t cooked with yet, and it reminded me of ink pasta. I need to look around and see if I can find some here. Lovely dish and post, Spree!
When I wanted to cook with squid ink pasta, I went to a local specialty food shop. The lady there, with Spanish heritage strongly recommend that I skip the pre-made black pasta and buy squid ink sachets to mix with regular pasta. I was a little skeptical, worried that I’d make a huge mess, but it was great and very economical as squid ink only costs a few dollars for a sachet. Best of all, it had a subtle flavour and wasn’t messy at all. The sachets would be great if you want to make a squid ink risotto.
What can I say? With you, it is always the same thing! You make me want to run to the kitchen and try it out! Beautiful!
What a sweet sweet thing to say!! Thank you…you made me smile! see… : D
That dish not only looks beautiful, but it looks like it would taste amazing too. I think I will try that as soon as summer comes around here.
I think you might just be doubly happy then when summer comes around! Thanks for your lovely comment!
nice! i am quite intrigued… beautiful picture of the pasta too i love the look of it for a dramatic presentation!
Thank you very much Jess. I apologize for such a late response to your nice comment but have been away and only just now read it. Thanks!
No problem! You’re welcome! 🙂
Unique pasta, coupled with grilled shrimp, certainly very tasty …
Certainly was! And you’ve reminded me that we need to make this again soon!
I just made this tonight and it was fabulous! Just got done doing an Adriatic cruise yesterday and was in the mood to keep the flavors going. Perfect end to my week!
Ahh, delighted you enjoyed it!