As you know Italian cooking is regional and seasonal, so no polenta down here and probably not much pasta con le sarde up around the Alps.
In this household I was told you only really need two friends in town. One is the butcher (only fresh, local meat) and the other is the fishmonger (no fish-farmed-dopey-eyed-stuff, only today’s pick from the sea, possibly fished just 300 yards off the coast). So, this is the time when the cuttlefish are swimming by.
Sircie, as they are known in dialect, are a popular dish prepared in a sauce for bucatini pasta, with or without il niuru, the ink bladders.
My mother-in-law served it, with the ink, the first time I was invited to meet the family. I guess she wanted to see how much I loved her son. I seriously thought I would have to sit there blindfolded, with a peg on my nose before I took the first bite. Even if it wasn’t love at first sight (the inky cuttlefish pasta, I mean), by the time I had got through it I was hooked – by the taste, the smell and even the sight of it. For someone who was brought up on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, it was a huge step towards cultural integration. The next visit was a cooking lesson to learn how to prepare it.
Since then it’s a regular dish on our family menu and easy to prepare. It is of prime importance that the fishmonger cleans the cuttlefish and separates the ink bladders so they can be diluted down in a glass of water. Never put them in the fridge without diluting them. They just solidify.
Chop some onion, sauté it in olive oil together with the cuttlefish. Add some ready-made tomato sauce (I use homemade tomato paste in the photo), the diluted ink bladders, a couple of bay leaves, some garlic cloves (no need to skin them) and as much peperoncino as you want. Cook for about 40 minutes on a low heat.
Alternative: Cook just the tentacles in the tomato/ink sauce and cut the fleshy part into strips, like calamari. Flour and deep fry them. Delicious!