I can still taste the first time we ate these, on the streets of Rome in a small trattoria in Trastevere, you know the ones, down the last alley on the right, dimly lite and a table or two sitting in front of modest facia. These are ALWAYS the best “stumbles”, they NEVER disappoint and we seem to end up back there at least another night, or two, or three. On this trip, I think it was three. We became known enough to have a table reserved for the following evening, same one, in front, with a red tablecloth and a candelabra. I know there are a million of these in Rome but it didn’t matter because this one hit a magical note.
When we sat down to this meal I honestly thought that maybe I didn’t get the memo that I had ordered my last meal of my life….I would have been okay with that, really. It was 4 courses of sheer bliss and this was just one of of the many delicious delectables. We started with freshly forged mushrooms and baby potatoes sautéed in butter and served with crostini and then moved onto homemade pasta with freshly shaved truffles from Alba and then onto the infamous calamari dish and only to finish off with the BEST tiramisu and espresso I have ever had. Oh did I mention the amazing wine with every course? Now you get why I would have been fine with this being my last meal.
I don’t know what it is about Italian Cuisine, maybe it’s the way a tall dark handsome man comes to your table and explains the dishes with a gorgeous accent while passionately gesturing every word with his hands as though they are his backup singers for his musical gig or if it is the fact you are in one of the most incredible cities in the world without a care or a concern or perhaps its the fact they use nothing but the local, freshest, and best ingredients. All I know is that I still think about this dish and Italy.
So we took the table and the handsome waiter approaches welcoming us to the trattoria and whisping us away with his explanation of the featured dishes. He used words like bellissima and succulento (secretly I’m thinking he must be talking about me) and instead I quickly realize he is speaking about a calamari tube. Time to snap back to reality.
You might be wondering why I choose the calamari dish to highlight and honestly, this was the dish I sincerely wondered if it was as good as he explained or was it his explanation and fab accent? I mean we all know that calamari, especially the tubes, can get really rubbery if not cooked correctly and then the dish has the consistency of a tire.
Whatever it was, him, the words, or Rome (probably all 3), I ordered the calamari. It was everything he said and then some. Stuffed with risotto and then grilled to perfection topped with local, freshly pressed olive oil with enough at the bottom of the dish to mop up with some home made bread from the antique wooden oven next door. Oh yes, and that fabulous glass of house made wine….I forgot to mention how he explained that, I was ready to spend the night in the cellar.
So here’s my version of one of “the unknown last supper” dishes. I changed up the risotto to include chorizo as I love it with seafood as it adds a incredible dimension to the flavor profile. I hope you enjoy it as much as I and even though I can’t superimpose the Italian waiter or Rome for that matter, I’ll dig up a photo for you to transport yourself…….
I never should have doubted the kings of cuisine…….
The red tablecloth and candelabra…
- 8 calamari tubes
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 4 cups chicken stock (more if needed)
- pinch of saffron (put in stock)
- ½ cup cured chorizo, diced*(hot or mild or combo)
- ½ cup sweet onion, diced
- ¼ cup white wine
- 2 T unsalted butter
- ½ cup parmigiano-reggiano
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- olive oil
- Rinse the calamari "tubes" and pat dry
- On stovetop, heat chicken broth until warm and add saffron
- In a medium stockpot, heat oil and add chorizo.
- Saute until juices release a bit and then add onion, sauté until transparent and add garlic.
- Stir and add rice.
- Add wine and allow to absorb into rice
- Begin to add stock, ½ a cup at a time until it absorbs into rice (don't fully allow the rice to get "dry" before adding more stock. Stir constantly.
- Taste rice and it should be "al dente". Consistency will be creamy but not "gooey". This is KEY to a good risotto
- Add parmigiano-reggiano and butter.
- Open Calamari tubes and fill about ¾ full with risotto mixture. Fold over and seal with a toothpick. Repeat with remaining calamari.
- Brush with olive oil and salt and pepper.
- Heat grill to medium and place calamari directly onto grill. Cook for a total of about 5 minutes turning over to get even grill marks on each side.
- Serve immediately.