Calamari in umido (Squid braised in tomatoes and red chili)

My earliest memory of squid was of the ONE time my mother decided to make it. She bought uncleaned squid and as she went about the task of cleaning the squid, she gagged and coughed. Now honestly cleaning squid is not that bad but you don’t even have to worry about it as cleaned squid is available at almost all supermarkets. And since almost all squid is frozen when caught, cleaned and frozen squid is a great option.

There are only a few things to worry about when preparing squid – slicing the bodies crosswise if called for in the recipe and making sure the tentacles are free of the beak (feel the center of tentacles – if your feel of a hard spot, it’s the beak. Use a sharp knife to remove it).

Somewhere along the way in the journey to perfect squid, the USA took a detour to “fried calamari”. Not only was the American ubiquitous “fried food” married with squid, but every last TGIF diner in America learned the Italian name for squid – Calamari. A very bad road had been taken. Returning to classical uses for calamari is almost a mandate for Americans of Italian decent.

There is ONE and only ONE rule of thumb for making squid. You must cook it for 3 minutes or 30 minutes. Everything in between will be rubbery. There are lots of “3 minute” recipes out there. This is my FAVORITE 30 minute version.

Ingredients and Directions

  • 3 (or so) tablespoons of olive oil
  • 6 (or so) peeled garlic cloves
  • Red chili pepper flakes
  • 2 to 3 pounds of cleaned squid (bodies and tentacles)
  • 1 28-ounce can of whole plum tomatoes (preferable San Marzano)
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few slices of crusty bread
  1. Prepare the calamari by slicing the bodies crosswise into 1/2 inch think rings. Place the rings and tentacles in a colander and rinse well under cold water. Drain well and place squid between ample paper towel sheets and pat dry.
  2. Chop all but one garlic cloves into small pieces.
  3. In a large saute pan, heat the oil olive over medium-low heat and add the garlic and a pinch of the red chili flakes. Cook until the garlic begins to give off its characteristic aroma but but be careful not to burn.
  4. Turn the heat to high and add the calamari to the hot oil. Saute for about 2 minutes until the calamari turns from translucent white to bright white. The rings and the tentacles will also curl up.
  5. Add the white wine and cook until the wine boils off a little.
  6. Return the heat to medium-low and add the plum tomatoes. Squeeze and break up the tomatoes with your fingers as your add them.
  7. Cook the calamari/tomato mixture for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  8. Season with salt and pepper as desired. This dish will need salt as calamari is not as salty as you might think.
  9. Before serving, toast slices of the bread. Slice the remaining garlic clove in half and rub the hot bread.
  10. Serve the calamari in a nice bowl with the toasted and seasoned bread.

Join the Conversation

  1. Guys, Thanks For sharing this Great Recipe. My Family Loved it. I am definitely sharing this recipe and this website with my friend. Hope they also love it. Thank you again for sharing such a great recipe.

    1. Thanks for this wonderful comment. Hands down, this is one of my most favorite recipes!! Squid in a tomato sauce with some crusty bread! You can’t go wrong…. Joe

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