Some of my fondest holiday memories of my dad are of preparing dinner with him on Christmas Eve. We conjured up some pretty fabulous feasts, but a red sauce with perfectly tender calamari evaded us for years. We would sauté the squid first, soak it in milk, and simmer it in the sauce anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, but to no avail.
Then I sampled the absolutely sublime calamari sauce at Freddy’s in Cicero and I had to know their secret. “Simmer it longer,” said Joe Quercia, who runs Freddy’s with his wife, Ann Marie, “and buy East Coast calamari at Supreme Lobster, not the frozen stuff from China.”
From then on, my dad and I were able to achieve calamari perfection. Here’s Joe’s recipe:
Chop a small onion fine and sauté it in oil until tender, tossing in a couple of cloves of coarsely chopped garlic and pulling the garlic just as they turn golden.
Add three cans of tomatoes that have been run through a blender, plus a quarter cup of white wine and salt, pepper, parsley and basil to taste. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for half an hour.
Clean and cut the squid into rings, sauté until the rings start to curl (about 3 minutes), add with fluid to the sauce and simmer for another half hour, testing as the time approaches.