Venetian pasta inspiration - Cuttlefish ink pasta with salmon and seafood


Many people call this squid ink pasta but it is actually cuttlefish ink. The two molluscs are closely related, I'm not sure I can tell you more about them or their ink, but just thought I'd mention they are not the same thing. Like Finland and Sweden. Not the same country.

Venetian cuttlefish ink pasta with lightly smoked salmon, prawns, mussels and squid

This dish was inspired by our lovely, romantic weekend in the absolutely awe-inspiring Venice two weeks ago. I love Venice, I have about five thousand pictures of the canals, I particularly loved the small, quiet side canals. An avid motorist, husband was mainly amazed by the lack of cars. So, lots of walking and exploring as always on our holidays, and of course good food. I've probably had more pizza this year that in my entire life so far.

Little canal in Venice

View of San Marco's square in Venice
View of San Marco's square from Santa Maria della Salute, Venice
Gondolas at the Grand Canal
Gondolas, Grand Canal
I blame the questionable decision I made in January to study Italian which has partly influenced our recent holiday choices. I thought it was an easy language that you could master by adding a random vowel at the end of each word, cranking up the volume a bit and waving your hands for effect. Disappointingly it doesn't work like that. I won't go into the depressing detail of conjugating verbs, irregularities and the hundreds of tiny little one or two letter words that need to go absolutely everywhere. But I take comfort in the fact that I pronounce it like a boss. In Finnish we roll our R's and have a similarly passionate relationship with our double consonants. I think this might have made our travelling companions believe I was more fluent than I actually am. All I actually did was some ordering in the restaurants and buying a stamp - un francobolli - I love that word. So powerful. FRANCOBOLLI, pronounced with a proud double k, perfectly describes this fearless little square of paper and glue that boldly takes all kinds of secret and controversial messages wherever they need to go. I need to tell my dad, who has been a devoted francobollist all his life about this wonderful word, he will love it.

Sometimes the streets get busy - DHL delivers
So we were travelling with another couple, a friend of husband's and his quirky wife who made us laugh a lot. Our last evening back at the hotel after our night out husband was brushing his teeth and I could hear him struggling behind the bathroom door as he was repeatedly bursting into hysterics. I can't share the joke that made us giggle helplessly because it's one on those things you had to be there for = not a very good joke. It involved death and jellyfish. But you know how after 15k of walking, Italian food and several glasses of prosecco, tired and happy, it doesn't take much to crack you up.

My only slight grievance during the holiday was that I was left to make all the decisions about where to go, what to do, when to meet for breakfast etc. I am very bossy by nature, but I would like a break every once in a while. But these guys, I would really like to run my leadership culture workshop with them. And this includes husband. You'd think evolution would have had its way with this kind of aimless ditherer. "Oh there's a massive, hungry-looking lion. Which way do you reckon we should run (=dawdle)?" "Oh I don't know, you choose, I'll just dilly-dally after you." "Well you know, I don't really have a preference, I quite like the look of those bushes, but then there's the nice little river as well, what do you th..AAAARGH."

But then actually I'm often more comfortable with my own decisions than anybody else's. Probably because mine usually are of course much better. The only time the others made a decision during the trip I nearly burst into tears. I had completely fallen in love with the beautiful, colourful, little island of Burano and wanted to stay there and explore but the others wanted to go to the boring stupid island of Murano. But to my credit I hid my anger and tears very well under my sunglasses. I think husband might have possibly suspected something, partly maybe because I said to him three times that I would have wanted to stay. I managed not to stamp my foot, which is a sign of my maturity. But as soon as we landed on Murano husband plied me with a Spritz Aperol, which is an awesome mix of the aperitif Aperol, prosecco and some other stuff. So peace and jollity was promptly restored. But if you ever go anywhere near Venice make sure to visit Burano, and if your friends want to leave the colourful fishing village for a pretentious glass art tourist trap, let them go and find better friends.

Burano island near Venice

Burano fishing village
My happy place - Burano
In the food front I mainly luxuriated in the beautiful seafood pastas. There is an absolute classic of a dish called Spaghetti con seppie alla Venetziana, spaghetti with cuttlefish Venetian style. I had been eyeballing it on the menus on previous nights but it does look a bit hardcore, so had opted for easier looking clam and mussel pastas. But I am happy I had the courage to try it, it was very very good.

Spaghetti con seppie alla Venetziana - Venetian cuttlefish ink pasta
Spaghetti con seppie alla Venetziana
Our first evening - pizza by the Rialto bridge
Pizza on the go

Authentic Italian seafood pasta with mussels and clams
As this inky messy thing might be a bit too much for husband I decided to ease him into the world of black pasta by a slightly more approachable version. I bought this black pasta at the Venice airport, but you can get it here also. Just head for Carluccios or any other Italian delicatessen.

Squid in pasta with lightly smoked salmon, prawns, mussels and squid

Rapeseed oil
400g cuttlefish ink pasta
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 chopped fresh chilli (optional)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon2/3 cup of white wine
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of fresh basil, chopped
Blackpepper, freshly ground
Dried italian herbs
Half a bag of spinach, chopped (optional)
300-400g Seafood of your choice (mussels, squid, prawns)
2 lightly smoked salmon fillets, skin removed and cubed (or use normal salmon)
2 heaped tablespoons of low fat sour cream
Pecorino, grated

Cook pasta in salted water according to the pack instructions leaving it al dente and preserving some of the cooking liquid.

In the meanwhile prepare the seafood sauce. Heat a tbsp of rapeseed oil a deep non-stick pan. Add the onion, garlic and chilli and fry on medium heat for a few minutes until they start to soften, add the zest and juice of the lemon and the white wine and cook down for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes herbs, seasoning and spinach and continue cooking until the spinach has wilted. Add the sour cream and the seafood in the order of how long things needs to cook. Don't over cook, the salmon cubes only need a few minutes and squid only a minute.

Add some of the pasta cooking water if you need more sauce. Once your sauce is cooked add in the pasta, mix careful not to break up the salmon too much. Sprinkle with fresh basil and grated pecorino.

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