Florence changed me.
If you read my recipe from last week that detailed the wonder of Coffee Steeped Pasta you’ll know that one of my favourite classes when I was studying in Italy was flavoured pasta.
Right besides the coffee infused pasta streaks was some thin strands of freshly snipped linguine that was as dark as ebony and could only be handled while wearing gloves for fearing of looking like you’d been making children’s finger print art all morning.
This was the squid ink infused pasta.
And it is literally exactly how you would imagine it to be.
Yes, during my time in Florence I did learn how to actually gut a squid and squeeze out it’s malevolent coloured ink but this pasta in particular was spiked with squid ink that came from a sachet, which was purchased from the local fishmonger.
More than just giving it an intriguingly curious and devilishly dark colour, it also streaks the linguine with the soul of the sea.
Stirring it makes you feel like you’re playing with creatures from the deep.. It’s not at all a fishy taste, it is a soft whisper of the ocean tide on every strand.
Just like the coffee pasta, I rarely have the time of an evening to be making my own pasta, therefore I am only more than happy to embrace shop-bought pastas and this particular squid ink pasta was bought and brought straight home from Florence – but you can definitely buy black pasta from stores here in the UK.
There was a delicatessen just down the road from the loft I was staying in in Florence and one of the first things I did when I had my Flavoured Pasta class was go and buy and packet of it to see what recipes I could play with at home.
I tried creamy carbonara inspired dishes and gutsy tomato based – and nothing seemed to tick the boxes I wanted it to. I learnt very quickly when it comes to something as uniquely flavoured as this, you will get the best results by keeping it simple.
Something magical happens when you keep it simple. It’s a theory that Italians have been running with since forever – trust the ingredients and let them speak for themselves.
So I went back to an old faithful combination – garlic, chilli and lemon. The vibrant pyramid of flavours provide a brightness to the pasta that doesn’t overshadow the flavour, but more enhance it.
Don’t be intimidated by the glossy, black strands. It’s just pasta and you must approach it with the same method and familiarity as normal pasta. In fact, take comfort in the fact this is easier than cooking any other dish because the sauce is merely the frying of a very small handful of ingredients.
This recipe is sexy. It transports me straight away back to my terrace balcony in Florence, eating massive forkfuls of this in my underwear while I swill back white wine.
Okay the image of me day drinking in my underwear isn’t sexy, but this dish absolutely is.
Boil a kettle. I love recipes that start this way,
Once it’s boiled, fill a big pan with the boiling water and turn the heat up high.
Finely chop 2/3 garlic cloves, a whole red chilli (take out the seeds if you want) and grab yourself a lemon.
Pour some olive oil in a frying pan and drop in the chopped garlic and chilli. It’s always best to put garlic when it’s finely chopped in cold oil otherwise if you drop it in when the oil is banging hot, it’ll sizzle and burn very quickly. Putting it in cold oil means it heats up WITH the oil and it’s easier to stop it burning.
Once you hear the garlic and chillies sizzle, drop a big handful of Squid Ink Pasta into the boiling water. Press the strands down gently so they are immersed in the water, stir them around and salt the water generously.
You want to cook the pasta for a minute or two under what the packet says. Mine said 8 minutes so I only cook them for 7.
Grate some lemon zest over the chillies and garlic and keep stirring as the pasta boils.
At the 6 minute mark, take a small cupful of the pasta water and pour it in the pan of sizzling garlic and chilli. Now throw in a generous handful of cooked prawns and give everything a stir.
At the 7 minute mark, drain the pasta and almost immediately fling it in the pan of garlic and chilly prawns.
Toss everything up so that the prawns warm through and every strand of pasta gets coated in the glossy lemony juices.
Serve with a glass of dry white wine, a leafy throwing of chopped parsley and a crunchy chunk of fresh cut bread.