Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia Recipe: How To Make Sicilian Black Pasta

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A symphony of tangy flavors from the sea, this alluring spaghetti al nero di seppia recipe is simple to make and irresistible to taste. This elegant yet rustic dish combines spaghetti with the captivating taste of fresh squid, squid ink, garlic, white wine and parsley. A delicacy for an intimate meal or dinner party.

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What is Pasta al Nero di Seppia?

Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia Siciliana by Authentic Food Quest
A stunning black pasta dish

The spaghetti al nero di seppia is an impressive pasta dish marked by a dark black color from squid ink.

It is a simple recipe made with chopped up squid, onion, garlic and white wine. It gets its intense dark color from squid ink which is used in the sauce to completely coat the pasta.

The word “al nero di seppia” refers to the dark liquid released by cephalopods, which includes octopuses, cuttlefish and squid.

The black ink is released to protect themselves by making it difficult for the predators to see them. 

This ink is not toxic and cuttlefish ink or il nero di seppia is used as a coloring in many pasta, rice and seafood dishes.

Be warned, the pasta is completely black. While the dark color may turn off some people, everyone changes their mind once they taste the goodness and depth of sea flavors.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: If you are looking for another famous Sicilian pasta dish, you’ll enjoy this simple Pasta alla Norma recipe.

Origin of Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia Recipe or Squid Ink Spaghetti Recipe

Seafood for Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia Recipe by Authentic Food Quest
Cuttlefish are commonly found in Sicily farmers markets

Pasta dishes made with fish and shellfish are typical of Southern Italy due to the surrounding seas.

Seafood, “fruit of the sea” or in Italian, frutti di mare are used reverently in the cuisine.

The tradition of using “pasta al nero” or pasta cooked with black cuttlefish ink is widespread throughout Sicily.

It is said to have been born from fishermen and their families not wanting to throw any part of the cuttlefish away.

Besides Sicily, pasta with cuttlefish ink is also popular in the northern region of Veneto using cuttlefish from the Venice lagoons.

Discovering Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia in Sicily

Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia Catania Sicily by Authentic Food Quest
Our first taste of spaghetti al nero di seppia in Catania at a local restaurant by the market

The name intrigued us when we first saw spaghetti al nero di seppia on restaurant menus. 

Before this, we had tried risotto dishes made with black squid ink. First in Montenegro and then around the Balkans where it is a local specialty.

Trying it in Italy, in the very popular pasta al nero di seppia alla siciliana dish was an experience.

We had it first at a local restaurant near the fish market in Catania. And, then had it several times after that in different cities across the island.

We loved the tangy sea flavors of the black spaghetti dish. Each time we had it though we noticed subtle differences in the taste and presentation. 

Some dishes had squid plus additional fish and seafood, while others did not. And the amount of parsley and pepper flakes used changed the flavors slightly.

Regardless, it is a very flavorful dish especially for seafood lovers. And, it goes particularly well with a glass of Sicilian white wine.

This simple spaghetti al nero di seppia recipe will bring the tastes of the Mediterranean sea to your table.

READ MORE: 20 Of The Best Restaurants in Catania Sicily for Pasta, Pizza and More

Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia Recipe – How To Make Black Pasta at Home

Ingredients for Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia Recipe by Authentic Food Quest
Ingredients for spaghetti al nero di seppia recipe

To make your pasta nero di seppia recipe like a Sicilian is easy and requires just a few simple tips. Start with the freshest squid you can find. 

While working with the black ink, be sure to protect your clothes by wearing an apron. If your fingers get stained, don’t worry as the ink will wash off with water. 

Use regular spaghetti or any long pasta like linguine, angel hair, fettuccine, etc. Be sure not to overcook the spaghetti, the pasta must be al dente.

Ingredients

Spaghetti Nero Recipe Tips

Where to Buy Squid Ink

In Sicily, spaghetti nero or black spaghetti is typically made using fresh ink from squid with their sacs. These are easily available from the local fishmonger or fish market.

In the US, finding fresh uncleaned squid with their ink sacs is not easy. Generally, squid is sold already cleaned up with the ink sacs removed.

For this spaghetti al nero di seppia recipe, you can buy little sachets of ink squid separately online. 

This will make it easier to make this black pasta recipe at  home. You can also use any leftover sachets to make squid ink risotto or even Spanish paella.

How to Remove Squid Ink From Squids

Squid Ink For Pasta by Authentic Food Quest
Squid ink sac need to be delicately pulled off the squid

Removing squid ink from squids is surprisingly easy. It can get messy so you want to wear kitchen gloves and an apron to protect your clothes.

The squid ink sac is in an elongated, silver-colored bag in the innards not far from the head. There are also secondary ink deposits behind the eyes. 

Locate the sacks and use your fingers or a knife to carefully pull it off the squid. 

Place the ink sacks in a non porous glass or metal bowl. Add three or four tablespoons of water and crush or puncture the sacks until the ink comes out.

How Long Can You Keep Squid Ink

Squid Ink Sauce by Authentic Food Quest
Squid ink can be kept a few months once frozen

If you have bought several squids and do not need to use all the ink at once, you can extract it and keep it for other recipes.

Start by removing the ink sacks as indicated in the previous section. To avoid the ink drying out when it is fresh, place the liquid in a small plastic bottle immediately.

Place the liquid ink in the freezer without a lid. Once the squid ink has frozen, put the lid on it. You can preserve the ink like this for up to three months.

If you are cooking with the sachets and not using them immediately, store them in the freezer. When you are ready to use the sachets, remove from the freezer and let them defrost at room temperature.

How To Remove Squid Ink From Clothes

Squid ink stains are not permanent but it can make a mess on your clothes. If you get a few ink spots on you when making this squid ink spaghetti recipe, have no fear.

While the stain is still fresh, apply some soap dish and rub together under cold water. If the stain seems stubborn, sprinkle in some hydrogen peroxide and let it sit. 

Another alternative is to use OxiClean, a versatile stain remover.

Spaghetti Al Nero Step by Step Instructions

Clean Squid and Cut Into Pieces

Clean the squid very well and carefully remove the head. Remove and discard the shell in the body of the squid. Remove the small ink sac near the top of the head and scrape off the skin covering the squid. Rinse the squid again, pat dry and cut into rings.

Cook The Squid

Saute garlic and onion in a pot and then add the squid ink sacks. Stir to remove any lumps and then add the sliced squid rings. Cook until the squid is tender, adding salt, white wine and parsley before the end of cooking.

Cook Pasta and Mix With The Squid

Cook the pasta for the recommended time in salted water until al dente. Drain the thin spaghetti and mix in the pot with the cooked squid. Mix well and serve immediately.

Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia by Authentic Food Quest

Spaghetti Al Nero Recipe

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

A symphony of tangy flavors from the sea, this alluring spaghetti al nero di seppia recipe is simple to make and irresistible to taste. This elegant yet rustic dish combines spaghetti with the captivating taste of fresh squid, squid ink, garlic, white wine and parsley. A delicacy for an intimate meal or dinner party.

Ingredients

Instructions

    1. Rinse the squid very well. Dry them and place them one by one on a chopping board. Carefully remove the head of the squid and set aside. Clean the interior of the squid and remove bones and ink sacks.
    2. Using a knife, scrape the surface of the squid to remove the deep purple skin that covers them. Rinse the squid again under running water, and pat dry.
    3. Cut the squid into rings.
    4. If using fresh ink directly from the squid, add three tablespoons of water and crush in a non-porous small bowl or mortar and pestle until all the ink is dissolved in the water. Set aside.
    5. If using ink sachets, squeeze the ink out of the pouches and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Stir the mixture and set aside.
    6. In a large pan pour extra virgin olive oil and heat over medium heat. Saute minced garlic and chopped onion until onion becomes translucent. Add red pepper flakes.
    7. Add the squid ink to the pot and stir well.
    8. Add cut up squid and salt to taste. Continue cooking for at least five more minutes, stirring occasionally.
    9. Add white wine and squid heads and reduce the temperature to low heat. Let it simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add parsley a few minutes before the end of cooking.
    10. Boil the pasta in a large pot of hot water with salt. Drain the spaghetti al dente.
    11. Pour the freshly drained pasta into the pot with the squid sauce and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Mix well so that pasta is covered completely by the jet black sauce.
    12. Sprinkle a few red pepper flakes and salt if necessary.
    13. Serve immediately and garnish with fresh parsley and squid tentacles.

Notes

  1. To give contrast to the dish, sauté some squid heads in a hot pan with two tablespoons of oil. Place as a topping on each plate.
  2. Enjoy with a glass of Sicilian white wine. We enjoyed it with Grillo, a white wine from Sicily’s indigeneous grapes. Refreshing with hints of minerality, it pairs well with this black pasta recipe.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 46465Total Fat: 695gSaturated Fat: 180gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 319gCholesterol: 116511mgSodium: 22453mgCarbohydrates: 1623gFiber: 4gSugar: 4gProtein: 7805g

Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information is generated by an online API and makes calculations based on serving sizes. These figures are only estimates and results may vary.

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20 Comments on “Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia Recipe: How To Make Sicilian Black Pasta”

    • You are right, Samuel. There is a similar dish made with risotto which is popular in Croatia and all along the Black Sea. Try this Sicilian one as it’s different but equally delicious. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
    • Yes, the white wine does add to the delicious flavors, Jacqueline. For the flakes, you can choose either. We made it with red pepper flakes, but whatever you have will work. Please let us know what you think when you make it. Cheers.

      Reply
  1. What a wild and fun and authentic dish, I had something similar while I was an au pair in Germany and was visiting Italy with a friend. Cannot wait to make it!

    Reply
  2. I have always wanted to learn how to make this, it looks so cool on the plate! Thank you for the very detailed instructions, it will help when I’m attempting to make it!

    Reply

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