It always pleases me when such a simple recipe can be so good. But every ingredient and every step must be perfect—the calamari, fresh; the olive oil, the best; and the pan must be hot for the quick cooking. I always prefer to buy whole calamari and clean them myself (you can see how easy it is to do in my book Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen). I also like to leave the skin on the bodies, because ittakes on a lovely color when cooked. However, now that squid are frequently sold already cleaned,which is a convenience, the body skin is usually peeled off as well. So, if you like the skin, as I do, ask the fishmonger at your market to leave it on. If that’s not possible, don’t worry: the dish tastes marvelous either way. (And if you are not a fan of squid, you could also prepare scallops, swordfish, or even a fillet of cod using this recipe.)
- 2 pounds cleaned calamari, whole bodies (skin on or off) and tentacles
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 plump garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
You will need a heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan, 12-inch diameter or wider.
Dry the calamari well, and put in a large bowl. Pour over them ½ cup of the olive oil, and add the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and the peperoncino. Toss to coat and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.
When you are ready to cook the calamari, make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ¼ cup olive oil, the lemon juice, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and the chopped parsley until emulsified.
Set the skillet over high heat, and when it is very hot, lift the calamari out of the marinade with tongs, let drain briefly, and then lay a batch of them flat in the dry skillet. Sear the calamari, turning several times, until the edges of the bodies and the tentacles are caramelized and crispy, about 2 minutes per batch. If you are using unskinned calamari, the skin will darken to a deep-reddish hue.
As the calamari come out of the skillet, arrange them on a warmed platter. When all of the calamari are done, drizzle the dressing over them, and serve right away.