Pasta is the ultimate comfort food. It’s versatile, easy to make, and tasty. The mere sight of a plate of golden noodles fills me with warmth. But what if those golden noodles are bluish black? No, they aren’t a prank and it isn’t Halloween — while black noodles may seem strange, squid ink pasta is a delicious dish beloved world over for its unique appearance and flavor. Intrigued? Keep reading to learn more about squid ink pasta and how you can try it for yourself.
What is squid ink?
Squid and cuttlefish release a dark, blue-black ink as a defense against predators; Obscured by the opaque ink, they have precious seconds to escape and hide. The ink’s dark color is due to its melanin content, which is the same compound responsible for the color of human skin, according to Healthline.
Historically, squid ink has been harvested and used as a natural dye for writing and a curative in traditional Chinese medicine. Because it’s typically consumed in small amounts, its health benefits aren’t significant — but it may have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-cancer properties. Today, owing to its striking appearance and flavor, squid ink is used primarily in cooking — and in particular, in Mediterranean and Japanese cooking.
What is squid ink pasta?
One of the most popular uses for squid ink is in pasta, traditionally in a Sicilian dish called Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppie, says TasteAtlas.com. This glossy, midnight-hued dish is made by tossing pasta in a sauce with squid ink, garlic, olive oil, white wine, and squid or some other seafood. It’s also available in dried form, with ink having been added to its dough.
What does squid ink pasta taste like?
Despite its bold appearance, squid ink pasta isn’t as intensely flavored as you might think. It takes so little to color the dish, there isn’t usually a lot of squid ink used — meaning its flavor is detectable without being overwhelming. Gourmet food site Marky’s notes that it’s more like a condiment — a little bit goes a long way. The flavor is often described as savory and briny — “like the ocean in a pleasant way,” says food blog Taste. It also has a rich umami flavor due to its high glutamate content, a compound that’s necessary for a savory taste. (Glutamate is also high in foods like tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and mushrooms.)
Where can I find squid ink pasta?
Technically speaking, you could harvest the squid ink yourself by buying really, really fresh squid. But if you aren’t skilled in fabricating cephalopods, there are easier ways. You can find dried, squid ink-infused pasta at specialty stores or online (Buy from Amazon, $12.99). If you’d like to make a squid ink sauce or incorporate it into fresh pasta dough yourself, you can also find jars of ink online (Buy from Amazon, $13.95). Marky’s notes that cuttlefish ink is used more often, due to its mellower flavor and wider availability — but it’s still legally classified and sold as squid ink, since the two creatures are such close relatives.
If you buy a jar of ink, SousChef.com recommends using it sparingly so as not to overwhelm your dishes. They suggest using 1 gram of squid ink per 100 grams of dish ingredients. Once opened, the jar will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 20 days.
How To Make Squid Ink Pasta
There are several traditional recipes for this dish online, like this one from The Spruce Eats that involves cleaning a fresh squid and extracting its ink, or this one from food blog Chef Jar that uses pre-made squid ink pasta for its base and shrimp instead of squid for its protein.
Want a modern, meatless option? Check out this whimsical recipe for “The Lover’s Potion Squid Ink Spaghetti” by none other than The Pasta Queen herself. She claims that this recipe — of black pasta, golden tomatoes, garlic, parmesan, and white wine — was a love potion created by a lonely witch in search of love on the coast of Naples. Watch her make and describe the dish, while dressed as the lonely witch, in the video below; you might just fall in love with it yourself.
Ultimately, squid ink isn’t as intimidating as it sounds … or looks. So, the next time you’re looking to spice up pasta night, try throwing some of this dark, briny, and unconventional ingredient into the mix.