Squid Ink Deepens Taste of Italian Seafood Soup Zuppa di Pesce

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Seafood stewed with squid ink

Surrounded on three sides by the sea, Italy is rich in seafood dishes. On today’s page, Italian cuisine chef Sadamu Tabata introduces a recipe for squid ink soup. The richness of squid ink and the umami flavor of seafood can be fully appreciated in this dish.

Seafood stew or soup is called “zuppa di pesce” in Italy. It is a simple dish that came from fishermen using seafood caught that day and stewing it with wine and tomatoes. The dish uses a whole sac of squid ink to add depth of flavor.

“In Italy, squid ink is often used not only in pasta, but also in stewed and braised dishes,” Tabata said. “By using seafood such as shellfish and crustaceans for the ingredients, you can add depth to the flavor.”

In the recipe, he uses cod, squid, shrimp and clams, combined with seasonal vegetables such as nanohana field mustard and mushrooms. He also uses the head of a red sea bream, which produces a good broth.

First, Tabata sprinkled salt over bite-sized squid pieces, sea bream head and cod fillets to draw out excess moisture from the ingredients and concentrate the flavor.

A secret is to brown the seafood and vegetables in olive oil before simmering. This step removes any fishiness and brings out the sweetness and aroma of the vegetables.

To simmer, Tabata added squid guts and the ink, poured white wine into the pan and brought it to a boil over high heat. “The soup tastes mild but still retains its flavor because the alcohol and acidity of the white wine are removed,” he said.

After adding clams and other ingredients and simmering, the dish is completed with the addition of tomatoes.

The richness of the squid, the acidity of the tomatoes and the umami of the various kinds of seafood are all blended together in this dark soup. The plump cod and chewy squid simmered in this flavorful and nutritious soup go perfectly with a glass of white wine.

Squid ink risotto

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Squid ink soup risotto

Tabata whipped up a squid ink risotto with the leftover soup. After taking 300 milliliters of the soup and boiling it in a pot, he added 300 grams of cooked rice and stirred it with a rubber spatula until it became sticky. More soup was added a little at a time until the rice achieved the desired degree of firmness. To finish, he added 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and stirred. It was served on a plate with coarsely chopped Italian parsley sprinkled on top.

Zuppa di pesce

Ingredients (4 servings):

  • 1 large squid
  • 1 sea bream head
  • 4 cod fillets (120 grams)
  • 4 head-on shrimps
  • 12 clams in shells
  • 4 brussels sprouts
  • ½ pack each of maitake and hiratake mushrooms
  • 4 bunches nanohana field mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 red chili pepper
  • 200 milliliters white wine
  • 1 can tomatoes (350 grams)
  • A little Italian parsley
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • Directions:

    1. Grip squid legs firmly and pull guts from body. Cut guts from legs while removing eyes and beak. Gently pinch ink sac to separate it from guts. Keep both ink sac and guts. Remove cartilage from squid body and peel off skin.

    2. Cut squid body into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle salt on them and the legs. Cut sea bream head in half and sprinkle salt on it and the cod. Leave for 5 minutes to draw out excess moisture.

    3. Season frying pan with crushed garlic and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over very low heat.

    4. Cook all seafood prepared in step 2 along with shrimp in frying pan over high heat. Add brussels sprouts and mushrooms to brown. Add more olive oil if it runs out.

    5. Fry squid guts and ink sac in the same pan to remove moisture and fishiness. Add chili pepper and white wine and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 500 milliliters of water and clams and cook over high heat for about 5 minutes.

    6. Add pureed tomatoes, nanohana and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and bring to a boil.

    7. Sprinkle with coarsely chopped Italian parsley and extra virgin olive oil to serve.