Spaghetti and Squid in Squid Ink Sauce

Spaghetti al nero di seppia recipe

​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 100 mins
Total: 2 hrs
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
400 Calories
16g Fat
32g Carbs
27g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 400
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 21%
Saturated Fat 2g 12%
Cholesterol 330mg 110%
Sodium 3243mg 141%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 12%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 27g
Vitamin C 9mg 46%
Calcium 64mg 5%
Iron 2mg 14%
Potassium 494mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

In this dramatic Italian dish called spaghetti al nero di seppia, tender fresh squid is cooked in a sauce containing its own ink. This adds both a tangy sea flavor and a deep black sheen to the sauce. You will most likely have to go to a fishmonger who has very fresh fish to obtain the squid, but it's worth the trip.

There is, of course, squid-ink pasta, in which the squid ink is mixed into the dough so that the pasta itself is jet black. However, that is a completely different dish. In this recipe, regular spaghetti is tossed in a tangy sauce made of squid ink, white wine, tomato paste, and squid. It's delicious and definitely a culinary adventure.

A white wine would be an excellent pairing for this dish—you can even enjoy the remainder of the wine you cooked with. A Lugana might be nice, and a Chardonnay makes another worthy and easily attainable choice. Serve this squid pasta with a fresh, lemony green salad and crusty bread.


  • 1 1/4 pounds very fresh squid, uncleaned

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 2 clove garlic, minced

  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley, minced

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste, diluted in a little water, or 3 tablespoons tomato sauce

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt, plus more for seasoning

  • 3/4 pound spaghetti

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for spaghetti al nero di seppia
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  2. To begin cleaning the squid, carefully separate the heads from the tentacles.

    Squid with heads removed on cutting board
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  3. Remove the guts, setting aside the ink sacs (be careful not to break them).

    Gutted squid with ink sacks in a small bowl on the side
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  4. Wash the squid well under cold water.

    Rinsed squid in a bowl
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  5. Dice the bodies and chop the tentacles.

    Diced squid on a cutting board
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  6. Over a small bowl, open the ink sacs and collect the ink.

    Squid ink collected in a small bowl
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  7. In a pot, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic without letting it brown.

    sauteed garlic in oil
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  8. Add the squid, minced parsley, and a generous dusting of freshly ground pepper.

    Squid and parsley added to pan of oil
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  9. Cover and simmer the sauce over low heat for about 45 minutes. Check it periodically to make sure it's not sticking (if it is, add a little hot water).

    Simmered squid sauce in a pan
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  10. Once the sauce has simmered, mix the white wine with the tomato paste or sauce and add it to the pot.

    White wine and tomato sauce added to pan
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  11. Simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered.

    Simmered squid sauce
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  12. Dilute the sauce with a little hot water, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes longer. At this point, the sauce should be neither too soupy nor too dry.

    Sauce diluted with a little hot water
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu 
  13. About 30 minutes before serving time, put 3 quarts of water on to a boil, add 1 to 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt, and stir. Once it's returned to a rolling boil, add the spaghetti.

    Uncooked spaghetti and water in pot
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  14. Stir the squid ink into the sauce, adding the amount that suits your taste. Season with salt to taste.

    Squid ink added to sauce
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  15. When the spaghetti is al dente (usually 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the brand), drain it well.

    Cooked spaghetti in collander
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  16. Toss the spaghetti with the sauce to coat all of the strands evenly.

    Spaghetti tossed with sauce in a pan
    ​The Spruce / Diana Mocanu
  17. Serve and enjoy.

    spaghetti al nero di seppia
    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Mocanu

Recipe Variation

For a shortcut, purchase already cleaned squid from your local fish monger as well as prepared squid ink.

Are Squid and Calamari the Same?

While some claim that calamari is a specific type of squid, there is no technical difference between squid and calamari. Calamari is simply the culinary name for squid, similar to cow and beef or deer and venison.

What Does Squid Ink Taste Like?

Squid ink tastes like the sea, with a fresh, briny flavor and elements of umami savoriness.

Does Squid Ink Stain Teeth?

Depending on the dish you're eating, squid ink can leave residue on your teeth, but it easily washes off with liquid or by brushing your teeth. Squid ink will not stain your teeth.

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