Here's a very delicious recipe for squid, Squid cooked in tomato sauce, fork tender, and a little bit spicy. Perfect to serve over steamed rice or boiled pasta.
Calamari in red sauce is sweet and very tender. The tomato brings out the natural sweetness of the squid and they match perfectly together. And when you make it hot and spicy it's even better still! Seriously, if you like spicy foods you should try this one. It's so good! But if you don't, no worries because spicy is only as a garnish on top and not in the sauce itself.
The Tomato Sauce For Calamari
The squid sauce ingredients are very basic and without many seasonings. All you need is onion, garlic, green bell pepper, ripe grated tomatoes, passata, tomato paste, bay leaf, sweet paprika, fresh parsley, and a tiny bit of fresh lemon juice.
- Ripe Grated Tomatoes: they add sweetness and thicken the texture of the sauce. Use red ripe tomatoes. Otherwise, use whole canned tomatoes and blend them in a food processor or blender until smooth (skip the passata in this case).
- Passata: Italian term for tomato sauce. The one you find at the grocery store without additional ingredients other than the tomatoes.
- Tomato Paste: Gives a stronger color to the sauce and a stronger tomato flavor.
- Fresh Parsley: Fresh basil works too!
- No Alcohol? No need to add alcohol to make this sauce, but you can if you want to. Add a splash of wine to the garlic and onions before adding the tomato paste and tomatoes. Or you can add Ouzo instead of wine which is a traditional Greek spirit that is added a lot to seafood dishes like this one. If you can't find Ouzo use Sambuca which is another anise-flavored spirit.
Squid Vs Calamari
Are squid and calamari the same? Yes, and no! Squid is a type of Calamari. It's usually larger and its meat can be a bit tougher.
The word calamari and squid is used interchangeably around the world. In Greece, we call it calamari or calamarakia (the smaller ones), and the squid we refer to as Thrapsalo. Many people though don't even notice the difference when they eat Thrapsalo (squid) instead of Calamari. Especially when cooked properly.
What To Use In This Stewed Calamari Recipe
You can use either squid or calamari. It won't make any difference. However, this is a great recipe for squid. Because it's easy to make it tender when slowly cooked in the sauce (it can be tougher cooked in other ways).
How To Cook Squid In Tomato Sauce
The best way to cook squid or calamari in the sauce is to pan-fry it first before adding it to the sauce. Otherwise, if let's say you add it straight into the sauce the texture of the calamari would be chewy and not so pleasant.
By pan-frying squid before adding it to the sauce:
- You add extra flavor
- Help to tenderize the meat
- Reduce stewing time
TIP: Calamari needs high heat to cook well. When exposed to high heat its meat expands and softens, if (whatever the cooking method frying, grilling, sauteeing, simmering) calamari is exposed to medium to low heat, its meat shrinks and the texture becomes rubbery. You can lower the heat only after the first minutes of cooking.
How Long Do You Cook Calamari In Tomato Sauce?
How long to cook Calamari in sauce depends on its size. The smaller the more tender it is, while the bigger the tougher. Also if it's squid like we mentioned above, plays a role in cooking time.
Another thing to keep in mind is that pan-frying the calamari before adding it to the sauce reduces cooking time.
As a rule of thumb, it takes anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes to cook calamari in sauce. All you need to do is keep it covered and simmer over medium heat. Then test with a knife to see if the meat of the calamari is tender. Otherwise, keep simmering and if the sauce gets too thick add a small splash of hot water.
You can even make braised Calamari by using an oven-safe saute pan and baking it in the oven instead of stewing on the stovetop.
Stuffed squid with rice and vegetables in tomato sauce is a similar dish to this one that's also worth trying!
The correct way of cutting Calamari ensures it cooks properly. For example, slicing the bottom in half and creating a flat surface helps the heat distribute evenly. You also need to cut and separate the fins from the body. Because they tend to fold or overlap over the meat while cooking.
If you don't know how to clean squid, check out this tutorial: -How To Clean Squid
Slow-cooked squid in tomato sauce can be a delicious Meze, a Greek starter dish, or an appetizer for bread dipping, served together with wine, Ouzo, or Tsipouro. Or you can serve it as a main dish together with steamed rice, fried potatoes, or mashed potatoes. It's also a great calamari sauce for pasta. Be it spaghetti, penne, or even orzo pasta! Another alternative is to serve it with some cous cous.
Make it spicy: serve with cayenne pepper on top or hot red pepper flakes.
Tender Squid In Tomato Sauce
- 9 tablespoons olive oil
- 700 grams (1.5 pounds) fresh or frozen whole squid
- 100 grams (1 small) onion finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 3 teaspoons tomato paste
- 400 grams (14 ounces) ripe tomatoes grate on a hand grater, discard the skins
- 100 grams (½ large) green bell pepper finely diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 5 tablespoons tomato passata (tomato sauce)
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- OPTIONAL: cayenne pepper or hot red pepper flakes to serve with
To Prepare The Squid:
- Clean the squid. Pull the squid's head and everything that comes with it. Insert your fingers into the squid's body and remove all that's inside. Dip the squid in a bowl with cold water and remove the membrane from its skin. Just grab hold of it and pull it it's easy to come off.
- Cut the squid. Cut the head between the legs and the eyes. Discard the eyes and teeth keeping only the legs. Cut the body into 2-2,5 cm thick (¾ to 1-inch) thick rings. Cut the bottom in half to get 2 flat triangles.
- Rinse the squid well and place it in a strainer.
Prepare The Sauce:
- Heat 5 tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan with a lid.
- Add the onion and garlic and saute over medium heat.
- Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute stirring with a wooden spoon.
- Add the grated tomatoes and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the tomato drains and starts to stick to the bottom.
- Pour in 3 cups of hot water. Add also the passata, bay leaf, and paprika.
- Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes over medium heat uncovered. Meanwhile, cook the squid.
To Cook The Squid:
- Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan.
- Pan-fry the squid in two batches. Season lightly with salt and pepper while pan-frying and flip to get a golden color on both sides. Add each batch to the sauce using cooking tongs.
- Pour a splash of hot water into the pan where you cooked the squid and deglaze it with a wooden spoon. Pour this into the sauce.
- Simmer covered for 30 to 40 minutes over medium heat. Or until squid feels tender when you prick it with a knife and the sauce is thickened. It may take up to 50 minutes if using a very large squid.
- Stir in the parsley and lemon juice 2 minutes before removing from the heat.
- Serve over steamed rice or boiled pasta with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or hot red pepper flakes if you like spicy.