What is calamari? Fried Calamari is crispy squid fried to golden brown perfection, that is dipped in marinara sauce or served with lemon wedges. Usually served as a appetizer but scrumptious all the same!
This is the best calamari recipe that you will come across! Calamari fritti is easy to make at home with a zesty calamari sauce!
Fried calamari, Italian for fried squid and also known as calamari fritti, is a dish served throughout the Mediterranean, but also very popular in the states.
Served with a calamari sauce, which is usually a simple marinara or spicy marinara, they are easy to make at home too! Lemon wedges are also perfectly acceptable.
Calamari and squid are synonymous in the US. Squid is the actual name of this mollusk, however, it is commonly prepared in Italian restaurants which refer to deep fried squid as calamari. All parts of the squid are edible except the beak and gadlius (pen).
In the States and Italy, most dishes commonly utilize the mantle (body which produces calamari rings when cut horizontally) and the tentacles
Other Mediterranean and Asian cultures will also use the ink, arms or eat them whole. Squid ink can be used to color and flavor pastas as well, like my Squid Ink Pasta with White Cream Sauce.
The fried calamari lover knows that good calamari can be difficult to come by. Fried too long and it is rubbery and chewy. However, not fried long enough; inedible and squeaky.
There is a saying in the foodie world about calamari: cook it hot and fast or low and slow, but nothing in between.
Things you should know about squid:
- Cleaned squid usually comes in two parts at the grocery store: the body and the tentacles. Sometimes you can purchase just the part you want, other times you’ll need to buy both.
- Most was previously frozen, if it is thawed when you buy it, ask how long it has been defrosted.
- Frozen squid is best within 2 days of defrosting.
- I prefer to buy whole bodies and cut the rings myself versus buying pre cut rings that are sometimes too thin.
- If you squid is fresh or recently defrosted, keep it cold until cooking. The back of the fridge is the coldest place. You can even set it on ice.
Too much breading results in not being able to taste the squid and too little is just a squid ring.
The perfect blend of seasoning is also difficult to achieve. Some folks prefer to do a battered calamari, using something similar to a beer batter slurry. Seasonings to both are generally salt and pepper.
Others like to bread them with either bread crumbs or panko, which is actually a Japanese bread crumb. I am of the latter group.
Some folks also like to soak their squid in milk (lactic acid) to break down the collagen and tenderize, but there is literally no research to prove this works.
PRO TIP: Dry calamari well with a paper towel before starting the breading process. The breading will stick better resulting in crispy fried calamari.
These are all reasons why more people don’t prepare calamari at home, I supposed. Squid is cheap and cooks super fast, making it a no brainer when it comes to party appetizers.
For mine, I like panko pieces. They are a little larger, but pack from punch from the crunch. It is light, yet crunchy and will not overpower the squid. Just a couple of shakes of seasoning is plenty.
This cooked calamari recipe is paired with a basic calamari sauce, also known as a simple marinara. Feel free to make your own or buy it at the store.
Don’t stop there though, you can also use some other fabulous dipping sauces like a Chipotle Aioli , Nashville Hot Sauce or Buffalo Wing Sauce for “rings of fire” or even a Creamy Italian Dressing. Or you can also go simple with a spritz of fresh lemon juice!
I like making mine with sweet pepper rings, but these can easily be omitted. Some folks also like spicy peppers or even artichoke hearts. Totally your call!
Here are a couple more easy Italian recipes:
Tools for making Easy Fried Calamari:
Pie Plates– I think every kitchen should have at least three shallow dishes or pie plates for the process of breading and frying. You can also bake pies in them! Hehe.
Heavy Bottom Sauce Pan– this will be one of your most used kitchen tools. Having something that is heavy bottom will distribute heat better and prevent burning whether you are using an electric or gas range.
Ramekins– I like giving folks their own individual sauce cups. Then you don’t have to worry about double dipping! Ramekins are also great for ingredient preparation and baking mini souffles.
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- 1 pound squid , your choice of tubes only or a combination of tubes and tentacles
- 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 egg whites
- 1/3 cup flour
- 4-5 sweet peppers , cut into rings, seeds discarded
- Vegetable oil , enough to fill your frying pan up to 1 1/2 inches
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- Maldon sea salt , for garnish
- Parlsey , minced, for garnish
- Thoroughly clean squid pieces under cold water, running water through tubes. Dab dry. The tips might have a jelly-like tendon that will need to be cut off and discarded. Cut tubes into 1/2 inch rings. Rinse tentacles and leave whole. Set in refrigerator to dry out further.
- In a medium bowl combine panko bread crumbs with a few dashes of fine sea salt and a couple turns of a freshly ground pepper.
- In another medium bowl whisk together egg whites and flour to make a paste.
- Preheat oven to “warm”, 150-200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
- Heat oil over high heat. Dredge calamari rings in egg white mixture. Rings do not need to be fully coated. Allow excess coating to drip off and transfer to panko mixture. Pat bread crumbs into calamari and transfer to hot oil.
- Fry until rings are lightly browned, turning throughout the process. This a quick, flash fry, and will only take 2-3 minutes. Over cooking will result in a rubbery, chewy mess. Remove to a paper towel lined baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm.
- Dredge sweet pepper rings in egg white mixture and then panko mixture, following the same instructions as the calamari. remove to paper towel lined baking sheet.
- Serve with easy marinara sauce!
- If you’ve tried this recipe, let us know how it was!