Squid ink risotto – risotto al nero di seppia

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This stunning squid ink risotto recipe is a Venetian classic, with bountiful squid offering the moody ink that gives the dish its famous colour. You may need a little extra squid ink to boost the colour if the sacs of the squid are a little small, so it's wise to keep some extra on hand.

First published in 2017

One of the most iconic and famous Venetian dishes, squid ink risotto, impresses the eye as much as the palate. For those who have never seen or tasted it, the first encounter is revealing: gazing at the pitch-black plate of rice approaching the table is a show in itself; the flavour – earthy, deeply savoury, and yet strikingly sweet – does the rest.

The core of the dish is squid with its ink sacs attached. In Italy, inky squid is not hard to come across. Featuring heavily in the cooking repertoire of many regions, you’ll often be able to spot it, the pearlescent flesh stained with black, in most coastal markets across the country. In Venice and Chioggia, too, black squid is common sight, as locals use it to make traditional dishes like risotto and black squid stew. When squid ink is not available, however, I found that bottled ink works as a fine replacement; it also acts as a great colour enhancer when the natural ink contained in the squid isn’t strong enough to colour a whole pot of risotto.

This risotto recipe comes together in two steps. On the one hand you have the main act – the squid, braised in its own ink, wine, and a little tomato until melting-tender. On the other you have the rice, started off simply and then mingled with the squid sauce to form a thing of pure magic. To finish, a knob of butter goes in, but no Parmesan, so as to not overpower the sweetness of the squid. The risotto is then served ‘all’onda’ (spreading on the plate like a smooth, gentle wave) with a shy sprinkle of parsley and a couple of turns of the pepper grinder.




Squid ink sauce

  • 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed and peeled
  • 800g of squid, cleaned (ink sacs reserved) and cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp squid ink, (optional)
  • 120ml of dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp of tomato purée
  • 80g of unsalted butter
  • 360g of risotto rice
  • 60ml of dry white wine
  • 1.5l fish stock, heated
  • fine sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped


In a saucepan set over a medium heat, fry the onion in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and the squid with the ink diluted in a tablespoon of warm water. Cook until the liquid of the squid has evaporated
Increase the heat and add the wine and tomato concentrate. Allow the wine to evaporate, then lower the heat again, cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring often and checking for doneness – the squid should be very tender. Add a little water if you see it becoming too dry. Once ready, remove from the heat and set aside
Melt the butter in a separate, large pan. Add the rice and toast it for a couple of minutes, stirring often, until it looks opaque and smells fragrant. Pour over the wine and allow it to evaporate, then start adding a ladleful of hot stock and, as you see it being absorbed by the rice, add some more
Carry on this way, adding stock a little at the time, for about 16–18 minutes, stirring all the while. Halfway through, stir in the black squid sauce. Taste and season accordingly
When the rice feels tender but is still al dente and the risotto looks creamy and wet, remove from the heat and add the butter and parsley; stir energetically until fully incorporated
Spoon the risotto onto flat serving plates and pat it so that it spreads across the plate. Serve straight away

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Valeria Necchio is an Italian food writer and photographer with roots in the Venetian countryside.

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