Spaghetti with Cuttlefish Sauce

Spaghetti al Ragù di Totano

This is one of my all-time favourites, a delightful dish from Calabria using cuttlefish blended with garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and basil You could use squid (which is widely available frozen from supermarkets) or octopus instead of cuttlefish; and I have also used cubed monkfish, adding it into the pan with the oil, when none of the above were available.


  • 1 lb11 oz (750 g) fresh or frozen cuttlefish, cleaned and cut into rings or small chunks
  • salt
  • fl oz (100 ml) olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2–3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 large tablespoon tomato purée
  • 3 leaves fresh basil or ½ teaspoon dried basil or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • pinch granulated sugar
  • 3–4 tablespoons hot water
  • 14 oz (400 g) spaghetti


Wash the fish and put it into a heavy saucepan with a couple of pinches of salt. Place over a lowish heat. The fish will release natural liquid into the saucepan and then re-absorb it. When this liquid is completely re-absorbed (in about 10–15 minutes), pour the oil over the fish, then add the onion and the whole cloves of garlic. Stir and continue to cook until the onion is soft and the fish lightly browned. Add the tomato purée, basil or parsley and the sugar, stir and continue to cook for about 10 minutes or until the tomato begins to separate from the oil. When this happens, add the hot water, stir and remove from the heat and keep hot.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, toss in the spaghetti and stir. Cook until al dente - firm to the bite. (Check the instructions on the packet for timing, as brands vary.) Then drain and return to the pan. Pour over the sauce, toss together and transfer to a warm platter to serve.