Stuffed Calamari Sambucana Recipe

Jon Emanuel, Executive Chef of Project Angel Heart
Serves 4-6

This recipe gets a great boost in flavor from the use of fennel and Sambuca, an Italian licorice-flavored digestif.



  • 12 whole squid, cleaned
  • 6 qt. water
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • Dash Sambuca (Italian anise-flavored liqueur)


  • 2 T pure olive oil
  • 2 slice pancetta, diced
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 2 T fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 C plain bread crumbs
  • ½ C Parmesan Reggiano cheese, grated
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 2 whole, peeled garlic cloves
  • 1, 28-oz can whole Italian plum tomatoes, drained (reserve juice and add back after roasting), drizzled with olive oil and roasted in a hot oven until patched with black and brown (about 15 minutes—stir once)
  • 1 hot Italian pepper, trimmed and roasted with the tomatoes
  • 2 T fresh basil, chiffonade
  • 1 oz Sambuca (or to taste)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. In an 8 quart stock pot, add the water, lemon juice and Sambuca.  Bring to a boil and add the calamari bodies and tentacles.  Return to nearly a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 30-45 minutes, until calamari is tender.  Drain and set aside.
  2. While the calamari is simmering, prepare the stuffing.  Heat a medium skillet until hot and add the olive oil and pancetta.  Cook the pancetta until lightly brown.  Add the onion, garlic and fennel and sauté until fennel is softened.  Remove to a bowl off the heat.  Add the parsley, bread crumbs and cheese and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Using a teaspoon and your fingers, stuff the calamari bodies with the stuffing to about 3/4 full.  Seal with a toothpick that has been soaked in water for a few hours.  The calamari can be prepared to this point and held for up to a day.
  4. Prepare the sauce.  Heat a medium saucepan until hot.  Add the olive oil and garlic and sauté until garlic is golden.  Add the roasted tomatoes with juice and roasted pepper and stir to combine.  When heated, puree with a hand blender, food processor or conventional blender and reheat to a simmer.  Add the basil and stir to combine.  Add the Sambuca and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. To finish the dish, heat a large skillet until hot.  Add some pure olive oil to the skillet (enough to sauté the calamari) and heat until very hot.  Add the calamari stuffed bodies and tentacles and sauté until bodies are lightly browned and heated through, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Add the sauce to the calamari and heat until just simmering.  Remove skillet from heat.  Sprinkle calamari with chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley and grated Parmesan Reggiano.  Serve right from the skillet.  Enjoy!