Every time I go to Chicago I have to stop at Lidia Bastianch’s Eataly. Eataly is basically candy land for any lover of Italian food featuring restaurants, delis, and a specialty Italian grocery store. My favorite thing to buy whenever I am there to take back with me to South Carolina has to be their flavored pastas. With flavors ranging from Calabrian chili to nettle they really allow home cooks to take their pasta game to a level that was previously unheard of.
Recently my favorite pasta to pick up from Eataly has been the linguine al nero, or squid ink pasta. I remember being a small child watching the original Japanese Iron Chef and being supremely weirded out by the thought of putting squid ink in food, but man is it such a flavor boon. Squid ink adds a beautiful brininess to whatever you add it to, almost like clam liquor. The pasta just begs to be cooked with some beautiful shellfish.
Which leads me here. When I was conceptualizing this dish the only real struggle was picking out what to pair the pasta with. I knew it had to be a seafood that could not only hold up to the brininess of the squid ink, but dance with it as well to create an almost oceanic bite. Then I thought of my favorite shellfish, mussels. When cooked mussels let off a beautiful liquor, and the thought of the black shells of the mussels with the black pasta made my goth side’s heart go pitter patter and I knew it had to be done. And the other bonus to mussels? They are one of the cheapest seafoods, which comes in handy when you’re using a pasta that you have to go to a specialty store to find. It’s an easy win-win-win that brings a real air of elegance to the typical at home menu.
- 1/2 lb squid ink pasta
- 1 1/2 lb fresh mussels
- 10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tin of anchovies
- 1/2-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
- 2 cups white wine
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pasta according to package directions minus one minute. Drain.
Heat the oil in a pan large enough to hold the pasta and mussels over medium heat. Add the anchovies, garlic, and red pepper and saute until the garlic is fragrant and the anchovies are melted down, two-three minutes.
Add the white wine and basil. Allow the alcohol to burn off, about three to five minutes. Add the mussels to the pan and cover, reducing the heat to medium-low until the mussels pop open, about three-five minutes. Discard any mussels that did not pop open. Add salt and pepper to taste, and toss the pasta in with the mussels and sauce.