Squid-Inky Orzo


Perhaps not the most aesthetically appealing dish in the world to some, this Squid Ink Orzo may look like Orc food, but it certainly doesn’t taste like it.  Combining two of my favourite ingredients, orzo and squid ink, the result is a silky, bouncy grain engulfed in a slick of glossy, briny ink and subtle hints of the sea.

An intensely morish dish, I had to put my spoon down a few times and remind myself to savour the taste before wolfing it down. The sautéed squid really is secondary to this dish – of course it adds contrast in both texture and colour, but is by no means the star of the show.

Orzo is a type of pasta shaped like a grain of rice, also known as Risoni.  I use it as a substitute to arborio or carnaroli rice in risottos more and more these days.  The flavour is more delicate, and not heavy or creamy like risotto rice. It’s ideal for a dish like this where you want to show off a particular ingredient such as squid ink, and need something to ‘carry’ it and absorb the flavour without giving off too much creamy starch.

Squid ink is fairly easy to get hold of these days from good fishmongers or even online. I picked up 4 sachets from Borough Market for just 2 squid quid, so it’s pretty inexpensive too. It keeps in the fridge for months, so you don’t need to worry about having to use it within a few days should you come across it.

1 sachet squid ink
2 whole squid, or tubes (medium size)
250g Orzo
3 shallots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
50g unsalted butter
dash olive oil
1 glass of white wine
500ml light chicken or fish stock (approx – you may need to add more water during cooking)
black pepper
wedge of lemon
grated parmesan

Score the squid (outer side) in a diagonal about half a cm width apart, then score on the other diagonal to give a criss cross.  Cut into strips and put to the side.

Heat up the stock in a separate saucepan so it’s ready to add to the Orzo as needed.

Add a little olive oil and half of the butter to a saucepan, add the shallots and fry on a medium heat for a few minutes to soften, without browning.  Add the garlic, and fry for a further minute or two.  Then add the Orzo grains, stirring for a couple of minutes to coat each grain.  Pour in the wine and stir until it has reduced, then add one ladle of the hot stock at a time.  Stir frequently as the orzo will stick to the bottom of the pan otherwise.  Continue adding and reducing the stock, adding a little water if you need to.

The Orzo will take about 12-15 minutes to cook – it should be soft but slightly al dente, as with any other type of pasta or risotto.  A few minutes before it’s done, stir in the squid ink straight from the sachet.

Meanwhile, season the squid with salt and pepper.  Then fry in a separate saucepan in a little butter and olive oil on a high heat for no longer than a minute. Turn off the heat and squeeze the lemon juice over the squid.  Add the last knob of butter and some grated parmesan to the Orzo and give a final whip to melt it in.

Serve immediately with the sautéed squid on top.


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