Thank goodness for seafood!
With the holidays behind us, it’s time to lighten up, eat healthier and drop the pounds we probably added over the last month or two. But, it’s still cold outside, the days are short and Sunday afternoons at home call for family-style meals. Seafood-based dishes are the perfect solution – tasty, comforting and healthy.
Calamari con piselli, or squid with peas stewed in tomato sauce, was of a favorite dish of Stefano and his brother and sister when growing up in Rome. Their mom, Maria, made it often in the winter, using either calamari (squid) or its related cephalopod, seppie (cuttlefish).
Before we begin with the recipe, let’s look more closely at these interesting and delicious sea creatures. Octopus (polpo in Italian), squid (calamari in Italian) and cuttlefish (seppie in Italian) are three common cephalopods prevalent in southern Mediterranean and Asian cooking. All cephalopods have bilateral body symmetry and a large head with tentacles attached to it. They also all have ink sacs and can squirt ink, which is why they are sometimes referred commonly as inkfish. It is the black colored ink from squid that is used to make squid ink pasta.
In the landlocked Midwest of the United States, cephalopods are not easy to come by. We were thrilled to fine frozen calamari while out shopping one day, and immediately new that we would stew them in tomato sauce with peas, for a perfect January weekend meal.
2 and 1/2 lbs. squid
Two 28-oz. cans of canned whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
3 Tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch parsley
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
16 oz. frozen peas
Salt to taste
Black pepper, or if you prefer crushed red pepper
Generally, squid is sold already cleaned. If your squid is not cleaned, clean it, as explained here. If your squid is clean, rinse it under running water, removing any skin, sand or bits of tough tissue. If the tentacles are still attached, remove them. Pat the squid bodies and tentacles dry with paper towels.
On a cutting board, slice the body, or sac, into rings 1/4th inch to 1/2 inch wide. Chop the onion and sauté it in the olive oil over medium heat. Mince the garlic, and add it to the sauté when the onion becomes translucent. Chop the parsley and add it to the sauté. Add the tomatoes, passing them through a food mill. Bring to a boil, and then add the white wine. Allow it to cook for 10-15 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste, and then add the squid. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes, add the peas and let the mixture cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until the peas are tender.
Serve in a pasta or soup bowl, with a piece of crusty bread, toasted if you wish.