Stuffed Calamari with Artichokes and Capers


When I made this for dinner recently, my husband thought it was stuffed pasta. It did have a similar texture - soft and tender but sturdy enough to hold the filling. Other cooking methods can render squid tough and rubbery, but simmering it slowly in tomato sauce makes it turn out succulent every time.

I used frozen, thawed artichoke hearts but you could use freshly cooked if they are in season. I also added Parmesan cheese, which isn't always traditional with seafood dishes, but because it is more like an Italian stuffed pasta dish, it seemed appropriate. It also helped the stuffing stick together without needing to add any flour or grains. For a dairy-free version, substitute ground almonds.

The fresh herb I chose for this dish is thyme. Feel free to make substitutions because others would work well, especially basil, oregano, dill, or parsley. I also added some dried Herbes de Provence, a mixture of herbs common in the south of France. I store them in a manual salt grinder and grind them to order for maximum flavor. If you don't have Herbes de Provence, substitute another dried ground herb like oregano or rosemary.

To give this dish some spice, I added a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. It would also be very good with a fresh red chili pepper, thinly sliced, or ground chipotle pepper, so feel free to make substitutions if you wish. You can leave it out completely for a non-spicy dish. It will still be delicious.

8 baby squid (4- to 5-inches long), cleaned, about 1 pound
2 cups tomato purée
1 teaspoon ground Herbes de Provence, divided
Sea salt to taste
Ground peppercorn to taste
2 tablespoons butter 
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped artichoke hearts 
Pinch crushed red pepper
1 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Start by preparing the cleaned squid. For each squid, pull the tentacles away from the body, then pull the fins off the body. Cut away any cartilage from the tentacles. Rinse all of the parts very well and set them aside to drain.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Add the tomato purée to a saucepan. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon Herbes de Provence and a pinch each of salt and peppercorn. Warm over low heart.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion and bell pepper until soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the artichoke hearts, calamari fins and tentacles, salt, peppercorn, crushed red pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon Herbes de Provence. Once the calamari parts are fully cooked, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.

Add the cooled mixture to the food processor with the grated Parmesan. Pulse to coarsely chop.

Turn off the heat under the tomato sauce. Prepare a baking dish by spooning in just enough sauce to cover the bottom.

To stuff the calamari, spoon the stuffing into each tube or transfer it to a piping bag or plastic bag with the tip cut off and squeeze it into each one. Place the stuffed calamari in the baking dish.

Once you've stuffed all of the calamari, spoon the rest of the tomato sauce over them and bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.