09 February 2012

Baked Calamari

Last week I saw a big sign at my supermarket saying there was a sale on jumbo packs of squid. I stopped my cart in front of the giant refrigerated case, surrounded by other bargain-hunting donas de casa, and wondered when I last saw a grocery store displaying family-packs of squid.  Probably not at Stop and Shop. 

Then, I decided I would have to find a recipe to suit this bargain Portuguese find.

I loved Carmine's Restaurant when I was in college in New York City.  I dragged my parents there every time they came to visit. If I could manage to get a big group of friends to go out, this was my first choice. Would I try to trick dates into taking me there? You know it!

All the food was good, of course, but there was only one reason I was obsessed: heaping family-size platters of crispy, light calamari rings. I didn't know what a real squid looked like for many years, I just liked popping the breaded versions into my mouth as quickly as possible.

Shamefully, I have eaten them for about fifteen years without laying my actual hands on actual squid. Until now.

I am ignorant no more, friends!

While I love fried calamari (have you heard?), I am trying to slim down a bit and deep frying can make a mess of both thighs and kitchen. This baked calamari made a tasty alternative. Not exactly a dieter's special when served over buttered fettuccine, but if you are more serious about slim thighs than I am, you could put it over some greens and fresh tomatoes and have a very happy lunch.

Squid.  The perfect comfort food, at a bargain price. (At least in Lisbon.)

Baked Calamari
adapted from Not Your Mother's Casseroles
serves 4

2 pounds of cleaned squid
salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil + more to drizzle
4 cloves garlic, minced and divided
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 pound fettuccine
2 tbsp butter
one bunch of fresh cilantro
2 lemons

1. Preheat the oven to 500F (260C) while you prepare the squid. Take the tentacles out of the body cavities.  Slice the body into rings, and slice the tentacles into pieces of roughly equal size. Rinse the pieces, then blot as dry as possible with paper towels. (The cookbook suggests putting the pieces in the fridge for a little while, to dry them off even more.)

2. Take the squid pieces and toss them lightly with some salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  Set this aside while you heat the 1/3 cup olive oil on the stove.  Once the oil is hot, add half of the garlic and cook over a medium heat until it is golden and smells fragrant.  Remove the garlic pieces with a slotted spoon (Otherwise you will get a burned garlic taste in the final product.) At this point, it is a good time to put the pasta water on to boil.

3. Toss the breadcrumbs into the pan with the oil, and toast them over a medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until they get nice and golden. Toss the breadcrumbs and squid together, and put it all in a casserole dish. Roast the squid for 8 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring twice.

4. While the squid roasts, cook the pasta according to package directions.  Once it is tender, leave it to drain in a colander while you put the butter and garlic in the pasta pan, over a medium heat. Cook for just a couple of minutes, until the garlic starts to get fragrant and the butter melts, and then toss in the cooked pasta.  Stir to coat everything in melty garlic butter, add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon, and toss again.

5. Remove the squid from the oven and roughly chop the cilantro over the top. Serve the squid over a nice pile of pasta, with extra lemon wedges for each portion.


  1. This looks really --really-- delicious. Apparently squid/octopus are one of the best sustainable options for seafood in most parts of the world too. They do look a little...icky in their natural state, but once cooked, oh-so good!

    1. You just made me feel all eco-awesome for eating sustainable protein. I love that you KNOW about sustainable proteins! Woo!

  2. I end up going to Greek restaurants in order to find decent calamari dishes around here (I'm landlocked). I've never tried making it at home though. Regularly I do see squid in the supermarkets--those frozen rectangular blocks (not very inspiring).
    My mom on the other hand, used to make lulas recheadas (when she was inspired to melt one of the said blocks).
    I like the idea of baking, rather than frying calamari.(Hmm looks like I'm trying to convince myself I should get a block and make them with this recipe...)

  3. Oooo, lulas recheadas!! I did try those, and they are delicious and time consuming. Squids are slippery little suckers, I had a hard time stuffing them! I am guessing your mom had the technique down a lot better than me, though. :) But I can verify, slicing and baking with breadcrumbs is easier and also tasty. Let me know if you try it, how you like it!

  4. I love me some calamari! I have fried it but I've never baked it. Might just give it a go :)

    1. Go for it!! Let me know how tasty it is with French squid. :)