To be strapped to a chair bolted inside a giant tube has repercussions on the mind, which is why long flights can be such a strain. On the trip back from Zurich, I watched two films, one uplifting (The Artist), the other (Tower Heist) soul deadening. I read my book, ate nuts, and drank coffee. But mainly I thought about squid ink pasta.
Our last night in Lugano, I ate a deep dish of squid ink tagliatelle, al dente, lightly coated with tomato sauce and studded with a variety of sliced squid, chopped shrimp, and shreds of tuna. Like my steak tartare appetizer, it was a monstrous portion, but I was equal to the task. Rolling out the door to the empty Lugano streets, I had two thoughts: Swiss Italians eat more than Italian Italians; I would attempt to recreate that pasta as soon as I darted off the plane. And so, back home from the Zurich flight, I headed to Kalustyans for a thimble of squid ink.
I’ve never had a ton of luck with fresh pasta (except for filled varieties). The process is a breeze: rolling out yards-long thin sheets and re-rolling into noodles. But the trick to fresh pasta is the drying and storing. Usually, unless I use immediately, my pasta nests dry and crack, leaving me with half noodle and half noodle crumbs. It’s something to work on.
Nevertheless, I rolled a pound of coal-black fresh squid ink pasta and laid it out for the next day when I seared a bunch of seafood and, a la the Lugano chef, tossed it all together with homemade tomato sauce. While the result was briny and tasty, the dish is all about the noodles, and they were a mere shadow of my Lugano memory.
It’s folly to expect to go home and serve up a dish equal to some guy in Italy who’s been making pasta every day for years. But, rather than being disappointed, I was quite happy with the result, which will forever resurrect a nice memory.
(NOTE: As mentioned above, drying and storing pasta is not a trick I’ve mastered; I recommend cooking immediately. Otherwise, at least according to Marcella Hazan, you should dry for a few hours and then store in an airtight container.)
Tagliatelle Nero with Seafood
3 ½ cups flour plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon squid ink
1/4 cup olive oil
1 ½ pounds seafood (squid, shrimp, and tuna or other fish)
Tomato Sauce (preferably homemade)
Pinch hot pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
- For the pasta: Add the flour to a cutting boar (or large bowl) and make a large well with high sides. Add the whole eggs and squid ink. With a fork, whisk the eggs, gradually incorporating flour from the walls of the well until a mass forms. When it does, pick it up , turn to a floured board and knead, dusting with flour if necessary. Knead for at least 10 minutes until smooth and pliable then wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. (See Note.)
- Divide the dough in three balls. Wrap two of the balls in plastic and pass the pasta through a pasta machine, beginning with the widest setting and ending at the second to last setting. Make sure to dust the machine and the pasta sheet with lots of flour.
- If your machine has a tagliatelle or linguine attachment, cut the sheet into noodle-sized segments and roll through, forming each bunch into nests. Placing on a floured tray.
- Otherwise, roll up the segmented sheets jelly-roll fashion and cut thin noodles. Gather in nests and dry on a tray.
- To finish: Slice the squid bodies in ¼ inch rings. Chop the shrimp in thirds and the fish into 1-inch chunks. Season all with salt and pepper.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat the tomato sauce in a medium pot. Heat half the oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. When smoking, add the squid and cook 30 seconds then remove to a bowl. Add the remaining oil, shrimp and fish. Cook a minute or so then add to the shrimp. Drop the pasta in the water, cook 2 minutes or until al dente then drain. Return to the pot over low heat, toss with some of the sauce (not too much) and the seafood. Season and serve.