Squid ink pasta with tomato-fennel-saffron sauce and pan fried shrimp

I am still learning how to make pasta but this one turned out all right :). I am fascinated with squid ink because of its ability to make food black, and there aren’t too many black things we eat. And there is also the deep sea flavor. This is the second squid ink dish that I make – beside the squid ink risotto

serves: 8        difficulty: complex      prep time: 2 hrs


For the pasta

  • 3 cups pasta flour – mix 50/50 all purpose flour and semolina flour, or 50/50 Italian “00” flour and semolina flour
  • more semolina flour for dusting
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs squid ink. Good fishmongers such as the San Francisco Fish Company at the Ferry Building sell it.

For the sauce

  • 3 medium fennel bulbs, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 generous pinch of Spanish saffron
  • 2 8 oz can chopped (but not seasoned) tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 24 shrimps, shelled and deveined (3 per person)
  • 1 tbs canola or vegetable oil


First make the pasta dough.  Lightly beat the eggs.


Add the olive oil to the eggs.


Squid ink typically comes frozen – so defrost it in the microwave, and mix with one tsp warm water to form a paste.


Add the squid ink to the eggs and mix well.


Next, you need to mix the flour and the egg mixture to form the dough. There are two ways to that: 1) the traditional, manual way – by forming a “well” of flour and pouring the egg mixture in the middle (which is demonstrated in the video below) and 2) the easy, modern way – by using a food processor. The former gives you a lot more control how much flour the eggs can absorb and respectively how moist or dry the pasta dough becomes. With the latter – you don’t have that control. Note that if the dough is too moist you can always fix it by adding flour. But if it is too dry (which is a risk if you use the food processor) – you can’t introduce moisture and you have to start all over again.

In this case I did it the old fashioned way.


Form a well in the middle of the flour and pour the egg mixture in the middle. Using a fork, start mixing in some flower from the sides of the well while being careful not to breach the sides and let the runny egg mixture spill. You need to be careful only while the dark egg mixture in the middle is runny. Once it thickens into a paste, you can use a spatula to mix in more flower. Set aside about 1 cup of flour on the side (because you never know how much flour exactly will be needed to form the dough). Shape the dough, and keep adding flour.

The whole process is illustrated in the video below.


Once you have shaped the dough, start kneading. Fold the dough in two, turn it 90 degrees, apply pressure with the palm of your hand down and away from you… Repeat: fold in two, turn 90 degrees, apply pressure….


Keep kneading for at least 10 min or up until the dough become silky smooth. The process is illustrated in this video.


Because we are using semolina flour which is coarser, it will take more kneading to get there. In this case, I kneaded the dough for 25 min. Once it is smooth, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 min or better – a full hour.


While the dough is resting you can prepare the sauce. Chop the fennel bulb and mince the garlic.


Heat a sauté pan, and add the olive oil. Once it shimmers, add the minced garlic and chopped fennel and sauté until lightly caramelized.


Open the can of tomatoes, and use a hand blender to puree the tomatoes. Add them to the fennel, and add the pinch of saffron.  Continue sautéing for about 5 min. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the sauce thickens.


Remove form the heat. You can serve the sauce as is, or you can run it through a blender to make it smooth. I like the texture of the unprocessed ingredients, so I did not blend it.

Once the dough has rested, you can roll out and cut the pasta. First split the dough in 3 parts; work with 1/3 and keep the remaining 2/3 wrapped in plastic wrap.

I use a very simple Italian pasta maker with a detachable electric motor.


Flatten the dough between your hands so that it starts forming a pancake – about 1/2 inch thick. Adjust the pasta machine rollers on the widest gauge (on mine that’s 0), and turn on the pasta machine (if electric). Run the dough pancake through it 2-3 times. At that point you will have an elliptical sheet of dough. Fold the narrow ends of the ellipse so that the width of the pasta sheet is only slightly less than the width of the pasta machine. Run the sheet through the machine couple more times. The goal is for the pasta sheet to be as wide as the width of the machine. Once you have achieved that, start tightening the gauge of the rollers (on my machine the numbers go up) and run the sheet through the past machine couple of times at each gauge. You may have to dust the pasta sheet lightly with flour. I go all the way to gauge 5 for cut pasta. Dust lightly with flour, then cut the sheet in 1 ft long pieces. You should have something like this.  The whole process is illustrated here.


It’s all right if the ends of the sheet aren’t perfect 🙂

Before you cut the pasta, you want to dry the sheets for about 20 min. I made a make-shift rack for drying the pasta sheets – i.e. I used our dish drying rack propped between two chairs.


Once the sheets dry for 20 min they will feel like leather.

Next cut the pasta. Attach the cutting attachment to the machine. You have options how wide to cut the pasta. In the final dish pictures you will see two different variations: tagliatelle and linguine. The cutting process is illustrated in this video.


You can also cut it by hand by rolling each sheet into a roll, and slicing the roll as wide as you want the pasta to be.

Dust the ready pasta lightly with flower, and put on a lightly dusted sheet tray. Repeat with the remaining 2/3 of dough.

Here is the tagliatelle variation:


And this is the linguine variation:


When the pasta is ready, cover the sheet tray with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to two days. Or you can freeze it for months.

When you are ready to serve, fill a large stock pot with water, add plenty of salt (it should taste like sea water), and bring it to aggressive boil. While you are awaiting for the water to boil, cook the shrimp. Pat try the shrimp, and season with salt and black pepper.

fullsizeoutput_4655Heat a fry pan, add the canola or vegetable oil, and when the oil shimmers add the shrimp.  Sauté on one side until they turn light pink – about 2 min, then turn and sauté on the other side for about 1 – 1 1/2 min. Remove from the pan.


Warm the sauce. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook for 2-3 min. Fresh pasta cooks very quickly. Remove from the heat, drain the pasta but reserve 1/3 cup of the water. Add the pasta to the sauce, and add the reserved pasta water. Stir well and cook for a min. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.


Place the pasta in pasta bowls, and top with 3 shrimps and some fennel fronds.




Follow me on Instagram.