There’s something sinister about opening a can of tar-black something or other and throwing it into a pot. Unless, of course, you happen to be carrying a can of cuttlefish in ink. I discovered the stuff perhaps a year or so ago, in a local grocery store, and was intrigued by the box:
This could either be a very good purchase, or a seriously painful mistake. Undeterred, I made the ugliest risotto I’ve ever seen. I’ve been a cuttlefish convert ever since. In case you haven’t had them, cuttlefish are basically squid. In this form, they’re cut into relatively small chunks and bathed in a swathe of squid ink, which serves as a rich but subtle reminder of your meal’s origins. It also happens to have a somewhat creamy consistency, which makes it excellent for making a pasta sauce that’s both creamy and dairy free.
It pairs nicely (and quite simply) with sweet corn, garlic, and red bell peppers. This happened to be a pre-night shift lunch a few weeks ago, and took a whole 10 minutes to cook? The pasta was the limiting factor.
Cuttlefish pasta with corn and red bell peppers
Serves 2 as a main course.
- 2 servings of some kind of whole grain spaghetti (or shape of your choice, though the longer strands were quite nice in this)
- salt, to taste
- 1 4 oz. can cuttlefish in ink (if you can find this from a fishmonger, I’m sure it’d be even better)
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced into long slivers
- 1 c. frozen corn
- red chili powder or red pepper flakes, to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- olive oil
- lemon wedges, as a garnish (optional)
- I think this would be really great with a bit of cilantro sprinkled over the top, as well, or perhaps some fennel bulb slivers?
Start the pasta according to the directions on the package. Make sure you salt the water when it comes to a boil, before you throw the pasta in. The water should taste like a properly seasoned soup if you’ve salted it properly.
In a heavy cast iron pan, heat a glug of olive oil over medium heat. After a minute or two, throw in the garlic. Stir the garlic constantly for <1 minute (you don’t want it to burn), then add the peppers. Keep stirring the peppers and garlic over medium heat for a minute or two, and then add the corn (yes, it’s ok if it’s frozen when you add it; I’m lazy sometimes, too). Cook for a couple of minutes more over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the corn is hot. Add the cuttlefish in ink (the whole tin — you shouldn’t reserve any liquid). Stir and cook for a few minutes more, until the whole mixture is hot. Adjust the spiciness / seasoning with the chili powder or red pepper flakes and salt. Cover, remove from heat, and set aside. When your pasta is ready (it should be al dente), drain and toss in the cuttlefish sauce. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges as garnish.