Italian Holiday Tradition: Stuffed Squid

Stuffed Squid over pasta
Raw squid, stuffed and ready to cook

It is an Italian Christmas tradition to eat seafood on Christmas Eve. Growing up, our family always had stuffed squid, which they called “sache” (I’m not entirely sure that’s how it’s spelled) with pasta. It’s made from the squids’ bodies, which are cleaned thoroughly and then stuffed with a bread crumb mixture. My mom and grandpa began the ritual weeks prior to Christmas, calling around to find the best place to buy the squid, picking it up a few days before Christmas, and then spending several hours the day before Christmas Eve cutting, skinning, and cleaning it thoroughly. My grandma would make the stuffing, and then the three of them would stuff the little squid bodies. My grandma then sewed the bodies up with a needle and thread, making nice little squid pillows. As kids, we didn’t ever want to eat the squid. But sometimes, one or two of us would be brave and taste it (after being bribed by my grandpa with a few dollars). Naturally, we would scrunch up our faces and say, “Ewwww!” The grownups, however, loved it.

Stuffed Squid Recipe
1 loaf French bread
2 pounds squid (we always ordered them ahead of time from the grocery store or Italian market)
2 large cans tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 large can whole peeled tomatoes
2 to 3 eggs
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon basil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 (or more) cloves garlic, minced

Prep
Break up bread into chunks and dry overnight. Clean squid in cold water and place in a bowl (warning: the cleaning of the squid is pretty time consuming and, for many, pretty gross).

Sauce
Pour the cans of sauce, paste, and tomatoes into a stockpot and heat (breaking up tomatoes with a large fork from time to time). Season with minced garlic, salt, pepper, basil, and let simmer.

Stuffing Mixture
In a large bowl, mix bread crumbs, eggs, parsley, and a little more salt and pepper to taste with your (clean, of course) hands.

Stuff the Squid
Stuff squid with mixture, making sure to not overstuff (the squid really plump up when cooked). Secure the open ends of squid with toothpicks (or, you can sew with a needle and thread like my grandmother did, and then remove the thread after cooking).

Cook and Serve
Drop the stuffed squid into boiling sauce and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove squid from sauce, handling with care, as they burst easily. Serve over pasta and remaining squid sauce.

Not feeling the stuffed squid, but can handle a tamer version? How about fried calamari?
1 pound squid, cleaned well
1 to 2 cups flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil

Cut squid into rings or small pieces. Coat pieces with flour. Fry in hot oil with garlic on all sides until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with marinara sauce.

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