(CNN) — Venice is a magical, mysterious, romantic place — but let’s address the elephant in the room: It has a reputation for bad food. Too many touristy places serving frozen pizzas and spaghetti Bolognese.
So, what dish did Scappin choose to make with Tucci to showcase the best of the City of Canals and its surrounding lagoon? A Venetian classic: Black ink risotto with cuttlefish. Cuttlefish (seppia in Italian) is the cousin of the squid and the octopus.
The cuttlefish’s ink is a key ingredient.
“The precious ink is used to stain the risotto black, making the dish as theatrical as Venice itself,” Tucci explained.
Black ink risotto with cuttlefish is so great that it’s claimed by some neighboring countries as their invention. It’s impossible to know for sure who created the dish, but in the Venetian cookbook, the ink has been dry for a very long time.
(From left) Stanley Tucci and Chef Giovanni “Gianni” Scappin are shown in a scene from “Searching for Italy.”
Black Ink Risotto With Cuttlefish
(Risotto al Nero di Seppia)
Make 4 to 6 servings
If you’d like to add tomatoes to this dish, peeled tomatoes work well, or you could try passata di pomodoro, or pureed tomatoes, available at Italian specialty stores or online at international gourmet food sites.
Extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup | 26 grams; alternatively, use shallots)
1 clove garlic, sliced, or left whole and then removed when cooking the cuttlefish
10.6 ounces | 300 grams cuttlefish, ink sacs gently removed and meat cut into 1-inch wide strips and/or squares
1 to 2 teaspoons | 5 to 10 milliliters cuttlefish ink (about 1 to 2 sacks, depending on size)
125 milliliters | 1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup | 200 grams peeled tomatoes, chopped, or passata di pomodoro (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 stick unsalted butter; plus more for serving (optional)
1 1/2 cups | 300 grams Carnaroli rice or Vialone Nano rice
4 1/4 cups | 1 liter fish stock, hot and not very strong
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, fresh, chopped
7 1/2 grams | 4 teaspoons Parmesan, grated (optional)
1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat and gently sauté half of the chopped onion (¼ cup or 13 grams) until soft and slightly golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cuttlefish along with the ink. Stir the cuttlefish for about 1 minute. Then add the wine and, if using, tomatoes. Season very lightly with salt and pepper. Lower the temperature and let simmer gently, covered, stirring occasionally and checking for tenderness, until the cuttlefish is soft, a total of about 15 to 20 minutes. If needed, add some more water to the pan to keep the mixture “saucy.” The cuttlefish cooking time depends on the size and thickness of the strips. If the meat is very tender, it can be cooked directly into the rice.
2. In a separate 2- or 3-quart stock pan with straight sides, sauté the remaining ¼ cup (13 grams) onion with the butter. Add the rice and toast the grains, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until the rice is hot and coated with the butter and onion, but has not changed in color, about 30 seconds.
3. Add 1 cup of the hot stock and bring to a simmer over low heat. As the liquid reduces, keep adding stock by the cup, stirring continuously. If the cuttlefish is cooked separately, add it to the rice halfway through cooking, after about 7 minutes. Continue cooking, adding a small amount of stock as needed, until the rice is al dente and the risotto itself is still wet but not too runny, 7 to 8 minutes more. Total time should be 14 to 15 minutes once rice is added. If stock is very strong in flavor, dilute with some water. Do not overcook the rice or it will become mushy.
4. Remove from heat, add butter, parsley, Parmesan and toss the rice energetically (see video) to create creaminess and a texture that is wavy (but not “splashy”). This style of risotto is called “all’onda.”
5. The dish must be served on a flat plate, not in a bowl, and eaten with a fork. Just before serving, add more black pepper and, if desired, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.