Making makan: My dishy, dark Italian

This is me trying to make home-cooking sound like fine dining, using the ubiquitous posh restaurant lingo:

Squid ink linguine, seared fish, herb trio, caramelised onions, Turkish chilli flakes.

a.k.a. Pasta with fish, herbs and fried bits.

Squid ink linguine with seared fishDegree of difficulty:
LOW.  Cut and fry toppings.  Cut and fry fish.  Chop herbs.  Boil pasta.  Cut veg.  Mix.  Finito.

Will do again?  YES. 

  • The best thing about this dish?  Its versatility.
  • It’s my original healthy pasta recipe.  Adapt it to suit your larder and your dining preference.
  • Make it vegetarian and it’ll still taste great.
  • Heck, you can even forget about the squid ink and just use regular yellow pasta.


Make LOTS of the caramelised aromatics and the croutons.
~ Store the excess (separately) in airtight jars in the fridge for up to a week.
~ Use liberally to add punch to salads, steamed vegetables and soups.
~ How much better would broccoli taste when tossed with glistening caramelised garlic+onion, and topped with crunchy croutons?  George W Bush should try it, eh.


This creation is the long, dark Italian cousin of the Black, Black KL Hokkien Mee.  It’s the pasta to make when you don’t want:

  • a white sauce, for being too rich, or
  • a red sauce, for being too tomatoey.  Don’t laugh.  I personally know people who dislike cooked tomatoes and associated sauces.

Here’s how (recipe and variations follow)squid ink pasta recipes 1

  • Use a non-stick pan on medium heat.  Add a dessert spoon of olive oil.  Fry onion and garlic with a pinch of salt.
  • Caramelisation will take 5-10 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl.  Set aside.
  • Leave the heat on to make croutons.

squid ink pasta recipes 2

  • Add a dessert spoon of olive oil to the non-stick pan.
  • Add the cubed bread and toss it around until brown.  Transfer to a bowl.  Set aside.
  • Turn off the heat.  Don’t wash the pan.

TIP: Ensure you remove all crumbs from the pan, otherwise they’ll become bitter, charred bits as you fry the fish.

squid ink pasta recipes 4

  • Cook pasta according to packet instructions.  While pasta is cooking, fry fish.
  • Ideally, pasta and fish will be done at about the same time.

Peculiar observation:  The water used to boil squid ink pasta didn’t turn black…or even grey!

TIP: Don’t throw away the pasta water – you’ll need it later – this starchy water brings the pasta together and makes it velvety.

  • Heat the non-stick pan (medium to high heat).  Tip in the fish.  Don’t add oil – it’s already in the marinade.
  • Once the fish is browned, add ¼ cup of water or white wine, stir quickly, then turn off the heat.
  • Using tongs, transfer the pasta (without water) into the pan containing the fish.
  • Mix in the vegetables – these will cook a little in the residual heat, retaining crunch.

squid ink pasta recipes 5 squid ink pasta recipes 3

  • Toss through half the herbs, and half the caramelised garlic+onions.  Reserve the other half for garnish.
  • If the pasta is dry, add some pasta cooking water.  If you have guests, add some gloss with olive oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

squid ink pasta recipes 7 squid ink pasta recipes 6 squid ink pasta recipes 8

  • Dish out the pasta.  squid ink pasta recipes 9
  • Add toppings of croutons, caramelised garlic and onions, herbs and (if using) chilli flakes, eg:
  • Turkish chilli flakes (pictured) add heat and a tinge of sourness. I like them best.
  • Korean chilli powder (gochukaru) adds intense heat – use sparingly.
  • Sweet paprika adds colour and smokiness without the heat.

Healthy Pasta Recipe (with vegetarian and easy options)

Makes 4 generous main course servings.

  • Squid ink linguine with seared fish2 medium onions, roughly diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 6 slices of bread crusts, cut into little cubes
  • 500g firm-fleshed fish (eg mahi mahi, kingfish, mackerel), cubed and marinated for at least 20 minutes in:
    – 1 dessert spoon seeded mustard
    – 1 dessert spoon olive oil
    – ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup of water or white wine, for cooking the fish
  • Variation.  Instead of using marinated fish, you could use:
    – strips of smoked salmon (a faster alternative)
    – cubed, fried haloumi (a vegetarian alternative)
    – nothing (a vegetarian and faster alternative).  The pasta will still be flavour-packed, thanks to the remaining ingredients.
  • 375g dried pasta (any type – black, yellow, red, green, polka dotted…just whatever lurks in your pantry)
  • 1½ cups of raw vegetables, eg:
    – sliced snow peas, beans or capsicum
    – corn kernels – great colour when used with red capsicum
    – zucchini or carrot strips
    – snow pea shoots
    – baby rocket, spinach or cress
  • 1 cup of loosely packed chopped herbs (I used basil, oregano and thyme simply because they grow in my garden.  Mint, parsley and dill also work.)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chilli flakes or sweet paprika (optional)

Parting tip…

…from the Waste-not-want-not Queen of Leftovers:  Instead of binning bread crusts, make croutons!    

  • Don’t buy croutons.  Use up those crusts – they’re cheaper and contain fewer additives than store-bought croutons.
  • Straight after buying bread, put the crusts in a bag in the freezer.
  • Keep adding new crusts to the bag.
  • Make croutons when you have 6 or more crusts.
  • Remove crusts from freezer.  Put on a plate in a single layer at room temperature to defrost – within 15 minutes, they should be soft enough to cut easily.

Confession time.  I used to be one of those people who dislikes cooked tomatoes and associated sauces.  But not anymore!

One thought on “Making makan: My dishy, dark Italian

  1. Pingback: Your outdoor apple store – apple picking | Feasting in the Know

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