Squid Ink Linguini with Clam Sauce

Peeled grapes for eyeballs and cold noodles for brains are what I think of when it comes to food at Halloween.  I’ll never forget helping to carefully peel dozens of grapes for the haunted garage that was painstakingly created by my parents for my brother’s October birthday years ago.

Visitors to our haunted garage would insert their hands through holes cut into black fabric and find themselves touching eyeballs (the grapes) and brains (the slippery noodles).  This combined with a creepy soundtrack, lots of cobwebs, and my father dressed up as the Devil made for an unforgettable party that was perhaps a bit too intense for my brother and his first grade friends, many of whom emerged from the haunted garage in tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This squid ink linguini with clam sauce is a far cry from cold noodles served up in a bowl to terrified 7-years olds, but its sinister black color is sure to delight spooks, both young and old alike.   You can find fresh or dried squid ink linguini at specialty markets, but I recommend making your own.  Fresh pasta is worth all the effort it takes to make it and if you have young children they’ll love being involved in the process.

The squid ink in this recipe could certainly be omitted with no harm to the recipe although I urge you to try it with the squid ink.  A little goes a long way and the subtle brininess that the squid ink adds is a nice addition to the traditional dish of linguini with clam sauce.

Unfortunately, squid ink is a bit tricky to find.  Many grocers are happy to order it for you, but I find the resulting jar of black ink to be a bit overwhelming.  After all, squid ink has never been a pantry staple and while it freezes well you are unlikely to use an entire jar of it anytime soon.  If there is a local Italian market in your town that sells fresh pasta, I urge you to give them a call to see if they carry squid ink and if they would sell you a dollop or two.  Here in Charlotte, I find that Pasta & Provisions on Providence Road is always happy to give you a couple of tablespoons from their stock at a reasonable price.  You can also order the squid ink online.

If you are feeding young children who might be turned off by clams, simply whip up a batch of black pasta for them and toss it with parmesan and butter.   In minutes, you’ll have a memorable, hair-raising dish.  How’s that for a culinary  trick or treat?

Squid Ink Linguini with Clam Sauce – Printer Friendly Recipe
Serves 4

While it could certainly be part of your costume, you might want to wear gloves when making this pasta to avoid staining your hands and fingernails black.

Note:  I made this again this evening.  I only had a few littleneck clams left (about 10)  so I added a can of chopped clams and left out the clam juice.  Still fabulous!

For pasta (makes about 1 lb of fresh pasta):
1 cup all purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup more if needed
¾ cup semolina flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons squid ink
Water, only if pasta is too dry

For Sauce:
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup white wine
1/2 cup clam juice
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
24 small littleneck clams, scrubbed well
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

To make the pasta, combine the all purpose flour, the semolina flour, and the salt on a clean countertop.  Create a large well in the center of the flour and crack the eggs into the well.  Add the olive oil and squid ink and then use a fork to incorporate the eggs into the flour until a lumpy dough forms.  Using your hands, knead the dough, adding more all purpose flour or water if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.   This will take about 8 minutes.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.   Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil.

Once the pasta dough has rested, cut the dough into about 8 smaller pieces and then flatten them with your palm.  Set up a pasta machine and, starting with the largest setting, roll each piece of dough through the machine, dusting the pieces with flour as needed. Fold each piece of dough in half and run the dough through the largest setting again.  Continue rolling the pieces of dough through the pasta maker using a smaller setting each time. Note: The first setting is the only one where the pasta will be run through twice. Once you’ve rolled the dough to an appropriate thickness, send the piece of dough through the linguini setting of the pasta machine.  Generously dust the noodles with flour and set-aside until ready to cook.

Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven or deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot.  Stir in the onion and cook for 3 to 5 more minutes until the onion has softened.  Add the garlic and stir briefly, about 30 seconds.

Add the white wine to the skillet and allow it to reduce by half.  Add the clam juice, red pepper flakes, and clams.  Bring the mixture to a strong simmer and cover for 4 to 5 minutes until the clams have opened and are cooked through.  Remove the lid and discard any clams that have not opened.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes.  Reserve one cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta in a colander.  Return the pasta to the pot.

Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the butter and parsley.  Add the drained pasta and toss to combine.   Add some of the reserved cooking liquid if pasta is too dry.  Serve immediately.

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