Risotto Nero

Cuttlefish Risotto with Ink

Rate this recipe

Preparation info

  • 6

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Alastair Little's Italian Kitchen

Alastair Little's Italian Kitchen

By Alastair Little

Published 1996

  • About

A frightening dish to prepare at home, the colour is so daunting. You will need a cooperative fishmonger who can find the cuttlefish and prepare them for you. I find that this dish is only worth preparing with cuttlefish, as the flavour of the ink is incomparable. Squid ink by contrast is bitter and disappointing, and the packaged inks are completely tasteless, a problem that restaurant chefs get around by using a good fish stock. This recipe uses a very dilute stock – i.e. water – and relies on a glass of dry white wine going in early on for flavour.

Ask your fishmonger to order the cuttlefish for you, and specify that they must be small (200 g each, maximum). Ask him to clean them for you and tell him you must have the sacs still intact. Chinese fishmongers often have cuttlefish, but you may have difficulty conveying your instructions to them, and even if you did they would think you mad. Black food is considered very bad joss in China.


  • 300 g rice (ideally carnaroli, but arborio is fine)
  • 500 g cuttlefish
  • 1.2 litres hot water, infused with a bay leaf, parsley stalks, salt and pepper
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 1 onion, peeled and very finely diced
  • 50 g butter
  • a few parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper


Bring the water to the boil with the flavourings, and simmer for 30 minutes to infuse. Open the wine and have a glass! Take the cuttlefish and cut into bite-sized chunks. Put the onion on to sweat in half the butter and cook until soft and translucent, then add the cuttlefish and sweat for about half an hour until nearly tender. It will render quite a lot of liquid. You do not need to pay much attention to the cuttlefish as they cook, but you do need to prepare the ink sacs.

Take a soup plate and with a small sharp knife cut 1 ink sac. Using the back of the blade, push the semi-solid ink out into the plate. You will need to hold the sac with the back of a teaspoon. Repeat with the other ink sacs and put the empty sacs into your infusing water; do not wash the knife or spoon, rinse them off in the water as well. Add a small amount of the wine to the soup plate and mix to a jet black liquid.

Add the rice to the cuttlefish and stir, then add the ink and rinse out the plate with the remaining wine. Add this to the cuttlefish and rice. Now add a ladle of the now grey and infused water (hereinafter described as the water) and stir, still over a medium heat, until absorbed. Repeat this step until the rice is cooked al dente. Add the remaining butter and the parsley leaves, stir, check the seasoning and cover. Leave to rest for 3 minutes, then serve immediately.

It is very important that the cuttlefish is nearly cooked before you add the rice. Small ones take less time, bigger ones may need more than half an hour’s pre-cooking.

Part of