The best calamari recipe I know! Tender calamari in sauce, this is an aromatic seafood stew that you will be making over and over again.
This calamari stew was my first time with calamari. Cooking it, not eating it. Fast forward to 2019 (this is an updated post from 2015). I've cooked this stew like a million times during the last 4 years.
It still remains the best calamari recipe ever! Even better than the fried rings in Chinese restaurants, which I adore as well.
I bought a bag of frozen calamari on a whim, not exactly knowing what to do with it, thinking about some squid in tomato sauce I once had in a Spanish restaurant and knowing that the children will spend the next 3 days in grandma's house, meaning that for a few days I will be able to cook what I call “adult” food, food that I know that my children would not touch.
I liked all these meals very much, but the stew was a real revelation. Something that I know for sure I will cook again, with or without children complaining (they could mop the tomato sauce with the bread and leave the rings for us).
It was sooooooooooo much better than the restaurant version. That one was for sure good enough to leave an impression on me, but really not that good compared with this version.
Difference between squid and calamari
I was always unsure about the differences. On one hand, I knew they must be more or less the same thing, yet I always thought about squid as being huge and of only thought of calamari in terms of food.
But what is actually the difference?
- Biologically, they are pretty much the same thing, both cephalopods of the order teuthoidea. But there are over 300 different species of these cephalopods.
- Squid is usually Nototodarus gouldi or Teuthoidea, while calamari is from the genus Sepioteuthis. You can see the word "sepia" in the name, which refers to their ink.
- The squid has fins that form an arrow shape on the end of the hood, while the fins of the calamari run on the sides of the body.
- When cooked calamari is more tender than squid and this issue is the reason for another main difference between them: the price! Calamari is much more expensive than squid.
- The only kind of calamari available around here are frozen tubes. They are cleaned and without any tentacles.
- The best is to defrost the tubes in the fridge overnight. If you forgot about it the night before, you can also defrost them by placing them in a freezer bag and then in cold water for about 30 minutes or until defrosted.
- I used onions, garlic, tomatoes and capers. Nothing facing, plain cheap ingredients that make up for the more expensive calamari.
- Use long red chili peppers. The ones I can buy here are medium hot, I never use more than 1 and I always remove the seeds. If you like the seafood stew to be spicier, leave the seeds or use more than 1 chili, your decision.
- I am very particular when it comes to olives, I cannot stand the brined pitted olives that are sold in jars, I think they taste of nothing but water.
- I always buy vacuum-packed unpitted black olives that have a really strong and extremely delicious taste. (Amazon affiliate link)
- But I understand that not everybody feels the way I do about olives, so do use other kinds of olives, if you like.
- Normally, I cook this recipe with black olives, however, green olives are fine as well, if you happen to have them.
How to make calamari stew?
This recipe is so simple, perfect if you are not comfortable with cooking calamari. It can be difficult to cook them properly if you are not familiar with it, usually, they need less than a minute in a pan, more and it will become tough.
But, when stewing it in a sauce you are on the safe side. The rings will need a rather long cooking time and this will bring them from the tender to the tough and then back to the tender stadium again.
Stewing on low heat for about 45 minutes will make the rings really tender and more delicious than you can possibly imagine.
This is really a dish that you can serve to guests, you can be sure to impress anybody with it! Provided they like seafood.
Step by step:
- Defrost the tubes in the refrigerator overnight. Or place them into a bag, place the bag in a bowl with cold water and let defrost for about 30 minutes (or as needed).
- Clean and slice them into rings, about 2 cm/ 0.8 inch thick.
- Chop the onions, garlic cloves and chili.
- Saute the onions, garlic, and chili in olive oil for a few minutes. Stir in the tomato paste.
- Add the rings, tomatoes, whole thyme sprigs, bay leaves, some salt, and pepper. Cover the pot, turn the heat down and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring from time to time.
- Add the chopped capers, pitted and sliced olives. Continue cooking on a low flame, this time uncovered, for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Adjust the taste with salt and pepper.
- Remove the thyme sprigs and the bay leaves and serve immediately.
How to serve?
Everything was perfect with only some pieces of crusty white bread (baguette, ciabatta or other white bread) on the side. And you do need the bread, you will want to clean every drop of sauce off your plate with it.
Otherwise, if you are not keen on bread, I am sure this seafood stew will be delicious over pasta or rice as well. Or even better: creamy polenta!
If you like or are willing to try calamari, do give this dish a try, you will love it. Or why not try this other spaghetti with calamari and peas?
More seafood recipes:
Calamari Stew in Tomato Sauce
- 1 lb calamari tubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion about 150 g/ 5.3 oz
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 long red chili pepper to taste (See note 1)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 can chopped tomatoes 400 g/ 14 oz
- 3 thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 10 large black olives See note 2
- fine sea salt and pepper
- Defrost the calamari tubes in the refrigerator overnight. Or give them to a bag, place the bag in a bowl with cold water, and let defrost for about 30 minutes (or as needed).
- Clean the calamari tubes and slice them into rings, about 2 cm/ 0.8 inches thick. Finely chop the onions, garlic cloves, and chili.
- Saute: Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, add the onions, garlic, and chili and saute them for a few minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir for about 2 minutes.
- Simmer: Add the calamari tubes, the tomatoes, whole thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and some salt and pepper. Cover the pot, turn the heat down and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring from time to time.In the meantime, finely chop the capers, pit the olives and slice them.Add to the stew and continue cooking on a low flame, this time uncovered, for a further 10 to 15 minutes.
- Adjust the taste with salt and pepper. Remove the thyme sprigs and the bay leaves and serve immediately as suggested above.
- I use medium hot long red chilies, seeds removed. For a spicier calamari stew, use chili to taste.
- Green olives are fine as well, another flavor yet still delicious.