Squid, the best animal in the world

Let’s talk about squid for a moment. Squid are marvellous animals. To eat, I mean. They fall into the category of ‘food I never dared to prepare because I didn’t know how to but which actually turned out pretty OK when I finally did’, along with almost every other type of seafood. Blenderman showed me how to do it and although it’s a lot of work, it’s actually doable.


So squids come in various varieties. Unfortunately, English doesn’t distinguish between these, but Italian does. There’s the totano, wich is kinda big, and then there’s the well-known and universally-loved calamaro, which is smaller. There’s a bunch of other edible squids (the seppia, the polpo, the moscardino) but let’s leave them out of this. The only thing that you really need to remember, is that the totano is big, and the calamaro is small. This is important for when you’re preparing them later.

As for the appearance of squids, they look kinda funky. One day I tried to tell a student of mine about my new totano-cleaning skills. He didn’t know the word in English, and I’m strictly forbidden to speak Italian with students. In cases like this one, I always resort to drawing. That was a mistake, because this is what came out:

totano sketch

My student eloquently remarked “Sembra un cazzo con le gambe”, which means exactly what you thought to yourself when you first saw this drawing.

Terrible drawings aside, squid always kinda remind me of Cthulhu, which I like because it feels like I’m eating bits of mythology. When I was little, it was one of the types of food I couldn’t understand my parents ate voluntarily, what with all those tentacles, but now that I’m an actual, adult person, I get them.

From what I’ve heard, squid are actually relatively intelligent, and I feel a little bit bad about eating them. The cleaning process is pretty brutal as well, which makes the sensation of doing something terrible even worse. You have to rip out their backbone and turn them inside out and everything. It’s  quite gruesome, really.  The guilt lasts me all the way to the frying pan, where the smell of fried totano makes me forget all about their possible feelings.

Which brings me to the important part of this whole story about squid: what are we actually going to do with them? I’ll tell you. The tentacles are going straight to the pasta, whilst the bodies are getting floured and fried. So roll up those sleeves and be prepared to have black nails for a couple of days. Totally worth it.


For the pasta, for two people, use:

  • 400 gr of squid, I prefer totani (about 6) but calamari (about 10-12) will do just fine
  • one big tomato or a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • a big clove of garlic
  • a small dried chili
  • a small handful of chopped parsley
  • enough olive oil
  • enough pasta

For the rest, use:

  • a small cup of flour
  • even more olive oil

So first of all, you need to remove the skin from your squid. This is quite easily down by putting a knife to their body and scraping it down, pulling off the fine layer of outer skin. After you get the first piece to come off, you can continue with the knife, or just use your fingers if that seems easier. You can leave the tentacles alone but the body should be completely skinned.

Now, rip out the bit with the tentacles. Don’t be scared. Done? OK, first remove the tooth.

The tooth:

IMG_3377It should come out easily enough. Use your fingers or the tip of a knife.

Now you also need to remove the eyes. Because this is a whole bunch of hassle, I just prefer to cut off the whole top bit, leaving you with 1) delicious tentacle on one end, and 2) creepy black eyeballs on the other. Chuck out the eyeball bit.

Do this to all of your squid. This way, you’ve got your pasta ingredients ready. (The deep-frying bit comes later, don’t worry.)

Boil your pasta in water with enough salt.

Heat some oil in a frying pan. Add the clove of garlic, crushed, and the dried chili, chopped. Gently fry for a minute on medium heat, then turn the fire to high and add the tomato, then a little after the tentacles. Leave for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.

When your pasta is done, drain it and add it to the squid and tomato. Add the fresh parsley and stir well.



As for the deep-frying bit, this is where it gets cold-blooded. You’ve still got the skinned bodies of your totani left. First, remove the backbone:


See that plastic looking bit poking out? That’s it. Grab it and pull it all the way out.

Now you’ve got a skinless, boneless totano. Hold it with its arrowhead up, gaping body hole down, and start squeezing it gently so that the organs will come out. Once it’s more or less completely empty, you can either rinse it with water and leave it at that, or you can turn the whole thing inside out and rinse it thoroughly. Up to you (although I did the last one).

Now that’s the hard work done. Grab yourself a sharp knife, cut rings out of the squid, roll them around in some flour, then just chuck them in frying hot olive oil. Shouldn’t take more than about a  minute and a half!

About La dittatrice

After years of being based in Glasgow, I've recently made a home for myself in Turin, Italy, for the time being, at least. This blog is my captain's log. Here I note down what I did, and what I ate. A story, then a recipe. That's how this here works. Updates on Wednesdays.
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2 Responses to Squid, the best animal in the world

  1. Trui says:

    Welhaast literair, deze blog. Daar zou een gerenommeerde krant zich niet voor hoeven schamen. Inviterende openingszin. Grappige wending in de derde. Het voorval met je leerling, niet te nadrukkelijk grappig, je laat de woorden hun werk doen. Understatement werkt vaak beter, zeg maar less is more, al is dat een cliche. Dan zogenaamd terug naar je apropos, de lezer is al helemaal aan je handje meegegaan (erin getrapt), als de laatste alinea hem weer bij de les dwingt: squid mannetje, dat is waar we het over hadden. Whi”eeee!


    • Gelukkig maar! Ik wist namelijk deze week, om mijn oudtante maar eens te citeren, niet waar ik de kracht vandaan haalde! Ik ben blij dat het verhaal, of eigenlijk de collectie losse anecdotes, toch nog heeft mogen bekoren.


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