Courage, Ma Cherie.

My family doesn’t have many traditions, but celebration usually means seafood for dinner. For my parents’ wedding anniversary, my mom used to cook chili crabs. On other special occasion, mom would either steam fresh prawns or blood cockles. You see, I grew up eating food with my fingers, not really utensils. So as soon as I know we’re staying in Angola for Christmas, I know we’re going to have squid (calamari) for our Christmas menu.

Stuffed Calamari 2Everyone have their own versions of stuffed calamari. I’ve stuffed calamari with rice, bell peppers and sundried tomatoes – it was good. But this one.. this is creme de la creme.

Stuffed Calamari Collage 2Making stuffed calamari isn’t difficult at all. But it does take quite a bit of work. Cleaning the calamari. Chopping the tentacles. Cooking the stuffing. Stuffing the calamari and sealing them close. And cooking them. Courage, ma cherie. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Ideally stuffed calamari is made with fresh calamari. But alas, the supermarkets only sell octopus. This is so typical of life, isn’t it? So I made this with frozen calamari which are smaller than the fresh ones.

STUFFED CALAMARI (Calamari Ripieni)
(adapted from Apron and Sneakers)
serve 4-6

12 calamaris
40 gr bread crumbs
1 tbsp dried parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
100 gr bacon, chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
1 C (250 ml) tomato sauce
300 ml dry white wine, divided
A pinch sugar – optional
A splash of water – optional

[Preparation, can be done a day in advance]

  • Clean the calamari. Separate tentacles from bodies. Chop tentacles finely or use food processor.
  • Using food processor as well to finely chop the bacon.
  • Saute onion in a pan with 1 tablespoon OO for few minutes before adding the garlic. When the onions are transparent, add bacon, bread crumbs and parsley.
  • Saute for additional 2 minutes. Add tentacles and cook until they are dry.
  • Add 200 ml white wine on medium-high flame. Cook until wine evaporates and sauce thickens. Set aside to let it cool down to room temperature.
  • Using piping bag if you have, stuff the calamari. Close the seam with tooth picks. Cover with cling wrap and put in the fridge if you’re not cooking them immediately.

[The Day]

  • Heat up the remaining OO in a pan. Put the stuffed calamari in the pan when the oil is hot. Brown all sides.
  • Pour the remaining 100 ml white wine on medium to high fire. Let it evaporate.
  • Pour tomato sauce into the saucepan. Let it boil then simmer, covered, for about 20 mins till sauce thicken considerably.
  • Fish out the calamari and set aside.
  • If you have any extra stuffing, add into the tomato sauce and cook together.
  • Taste the sauce. Add a pinch of sugar if the sauce is too tart, or a splash of water if it’s too thick.
  • Put back the calamari and serve immediately.

Troubleshooting stuffed calamari that exploded during cooking time:

  • My friend, you’ve probably stuffed the calamari too much. But no worries, I do too. Every single time actually. Likely, your calamari is running on the small size, like mine. So fish out the calamaris after 10-15 mins of cooking and set aside.
  • Continue to simmer the tomato sauce. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
  • Put back the calamari for the last 3-4 mins before serving.

I serve them with creamy polenta.

*** I hope you had a nice Christmas and whatever kitchen failure you had, you’re surrounded by people who see your efforts more than anything. We had couple surprise phone calls from Serbia and Melbourne that completed our day. We’re far but not that far 🙂 H is back to work today and I’m nursing some gorgeous sun burn. God is good.


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