Christmas Eve Calamari | Calamari in Umido per la Vigilia di Natale

In recent years, I’ve noticed a most troubling trend: disappearing tentacles. It seems many restaurants no longer serve calamari. They serve only calamari rings—typically fried so as to appear like a pile of tiny onion rings. There’s not a tentacle in sight, presumably because they’re a reminder of what one is actually eating. The truth, however, is that the calamari tentacles hold much of the flavor. They also add texture and quite a startling visual appeal. Kids do love them. I speak from experience.Domenica Marchetti

LC In Defense of Tentacles and Frozen Squid Note

The creepy, otherworldly tentacles Domenica mentions are still commonly available along with their accompanying sacs, whether fresh or frozen, at many a seafood counter. To select impeccable fresh calamari, look for white, shiny specimens that seem slick and smell like the sea. Store them on ice in your fridge for no more than a day. Although fresh is lovely, frozen squid is arguably fresher, in a sense, and compromises little, if anything, in taste or texture. Simply thaw under cool running water just prior to using.

Christmas Eve Calamari Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 45 M
  • Serves 4


  • 2 pounds cleaned calamari (fresh or frozen), both sacs and tentacles, washed and thoroughly dried
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, passed through a garlic press
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • Generous pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 8 slices rustic Italian bread, plain or toasted (bruschetta)


  • 1. With kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, cut the calamari sacs (bodies) into 1/2-inch-wide rings. Cut each crown of tentacles in half lengthwise to yield bite-size pieces.
  • 2. In a large sauté pan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring from time to time, until softened and translucent, 7 to 8 minutes.
  • 3. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic and the salt to form a paste. Add the paste to the onion in the pan, add the red pepper flakes and oregano, and stir to incorporate everything thoroughly. Add the calamari and stir to combine. Sauté for a minute or two. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the wine, and let the mixture bubble for 2 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and their juices, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially, and simmer gently until the calamari are tender, 30 to 45 minutes.
  • 4. Uncover and continue to simmer gently until the sauce has thickened somewhat, which may take up to 15 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook for 2 more minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Serve in shallow bowls with the bruschetta or bread.

    Cook’s Note: Frozen calamari are often readily available in 2 1/2- to 3-pound blocks. To thaw, place the block in a large bowl of cold water until the individual pieces separate easily, about 30 minutes. Drain thoroughly and pat dry.
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