Squid- or Cuttlefish-Ink Risotto

This risotto nero belongs to the family of risotto that has the flavoring element cooked along with the rice for the whole cooking time rather than being added during the last few moments of cooking. But the cuttlefish ink adds a delicate perfume to it as well, so in order to keep this intact (it would cook off after five minutes of cooking), I like to finish the risotto with an ink butter.

Of course, the black risotto is delicious with squid or cuttlefish cooked in with the risotto (risotto di seppie), but this risotto is delicious by itself, although there are many possible additions, like lobster or sliced tiny artichokes stewed in olive oil. See also the Variations below.

If you are not getting your ink from fresh squid or cuttlefish, the squid ink can be bought in 1-ounce packages at specialty stores (see Resources).

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Ingredients

  • 4 ounces squid ink
  • 6 cups fish stock
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • cups Carnaroli or Vialone rice (or Arborio)
  • ½ cup dry white wine

Method

Bring the stock to a simmer.

Mix half the ink thoroughly with the butter.

Put the olive oil, shallot, and thyme in a 4-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add the rice, and stir with the shallots and oil for another 5 minutes, or until the grains of rice are coated and slightly translucent.

Turn up the heat to high, add the wine, and cook while stirring for 2 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs. Turn the heat down to medium, and start adding the stock, ½ cup at a time. Dissolve the remaining half of the ink in the second ½ cup of stock before adding it. As each ½ cup of stock is absorbed, add another ½ cup, and keep on cooking like this, with the rice and stock simmering gently (adjust the heat if you need to), and stirring constantly, until the rice is cooked, no less than 20 minutes, and probably no more than 30.

You will know the rice is cooked when the rice as a whole is creamy and each grain is tender. If at this point you need to add a bit more stock, do so; and if there is too much stock at this point, turn the heat to high and stir like crazy until the excess liquid is gone. If you run out of stock at the end, add boiling water until the rice is cooked.

Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the ink butter. At this point, stir ¼ cup of stock or boiling water into the risotto, to give it an even more voluptuous (all’onda, “like a wave”) texture. Check the seasoning, and serve.

Variations

I like the richness of this risotto with the richness of shellfish like lobster, mussels, or crab; and with mussels in a saffron shellfish butter sauce, it is superb.

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