When I started January Italian, there was one ingredient that I put on my absolutely-must-use list: squid ink pasta.
I'd never had it. I had no clue what it tasted like. I had no idea where to get it. More than anything, I secretly dreaded that I'd have to make it myself. Removing the ink sac from a squid undamaged is no mean task. But my intrigue was such that I was prepared to borrow a pasta maker and go wrist-deep in cephalopod if necessary.
My fears went unrealized. After calling around fruitlessly to several local Italian stores, the Dean & Deluca on M St. in Georgetown came through with the goods.
The preparation was simple enough, but the pasta was fascinating on its own. The uncooked strands are matte black, but the tips have an anthracite sheen. For those accustomed to the semolina yellow of traditional pasta, it's jarring.
As far as the flavor, the pasta had a subtle and very pleasant brininess that sat just beneath the lemony tang of the sauce and enhanced the sweetness of the shrimp. Overall the dish had a wonderfully fresh taste that would have absolutely shined in the spring and summer months, but was no less delightful in the January cold.
Additional photos and recipe (which I just sorta threw together) below the jump.
RECIPE: (serves 4)
1 lb. squid ink pasta
16-20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2-3 medium leeks, trimmed, washed, sliced into rings
Zest of 2-3 large lemons
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large stock pot, set several quarts of salted water to boil.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, lay the shrimp in the oil and sautee on both sides for 2-3 minutes total. Remove shrimp and set aside.
Add pasta to boiling water in stock pot.
Returning to the skillet, turn the heat down to medium and add the butter. Add the sliced leeks and sautee until just starting to turn brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half.
Add the cream, lemon zest, and 2 tbsp. of the parsley and stir. Allow the sauce to simmer and thicken for a moment, if necessary. Return cooked shrimp to the sauce and turn off the heat.
Check the pasta. When sufficiently al dente, drain into a colander, then transfer to the skillet and toss with the sauce and the shrimp.
Plate the pasta and garnish with remaining parsley and slices of the zested lemons. Serve immediately.