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Image / Living / Food & Drink

Looking for an inspiring seafood pasta recipe? This one with crispy squid, lemon and chilli is a guaranteed hit

by Meg Walker
30th Jan 2021

This is sort of an all-star seafood pasta dish for me. It’s got all the hits: crispy squid, caramelised lemon and lots of fresh chilli.

The key to this seafood pasta dish is to give the squid the space and time it needs to brown properly. This means working in batches, being patient, and letting it do its thing in the pan. You’ll notice that despite being patted dry beforehand, squid has quite a bit of liquid in it, which tends to come out while cooking. This is okay, and while it looks like maybe your squid is simmering rather than sautéing, the liquid will evaporate and the squid will brown, and there will be dark, crispy bits on the bottom of the pan. Those bits are what you came here for. When scraped up with a bit of pasta water, simmering along with those fresh chillies and caramelised lemon slices, they are what make this whole thing so damn delicious, creating a sauce to coat every piece of pasta, inspiring you to shout, “Squid! I finally get it!”

Pasta with Crispy Squid, Lemon and Chilli
Serves 4

350g pasta, such as a noodle like spaghetti or linguine, or a short shape like campanelle or spaccatelli
sea salt
6 tbsp olive oil
350g cleaned squid hoods and tentacles, bodies sliced into 5mm rings, tentacles halved
freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 lemon, seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 red fresno chilli or jalapeño chilli, thinly sliced into rings, seeds removed if you like
90g dill, coriander, basil and/or mint

When you’re buying squid, there is no shame in getting the frozen kind; most of the stuff you find at the grocery store is previously frozen and then thawed anyway. Just make sure you get a nice mix of tentacles and hoods to vary the textures.

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente; the actual cooking time will vary depending on pasta type, so consult the packet instructions. Drain, reserving 250ml of the pasta water; set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the squid and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring only a few times, until the squid is golden brown and crisped up around the edges, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate or bowl and set aside. Repeat with another 2 tbsp of the olive oil and the remaining squid (no need to wipe the pan between batches); remove to the plate or bowl.

Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in the skillet and add the garlic and lemon slices; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring pretty frequently, until the garlic is golden and the lemon slices start to caramelise around the edges, about 4 minutes. Return the squid to the pan, along with the chilli, and stir to coat. Add the pasta, along with 125ml of the reserved pasta water. Toss everything together, using a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan – this is where the good stuff is.

Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until a sauce has formed (you might need to add a bit more pasta water to do this), 2-3 minutes. Scatter the herbs over the top just before serving.

Extracted from Dining In by Alison Roman (Hardie Grant, approx €26). Photography © Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott.