Spicy Calamari Stew with Garlicky Croutons

Our first taste of the autumn chill has arrived. The days break foggy and crisp, and though the afternoon sun is still quite warm, bracing morning and evening winds prompt yearnings for warm, soul-satisfying foods.

This recipe for a tomato-based calamari stew with chillies and herbs more than satisfies. Sometimes ladled over a small mound of grains, I served these bowls with cubes of homemade ciabatta bread tossed with olive oil and garlic and baked briefly until crisp and golden.

A simple yet elegant meal that feels like one foot in summer, one foot in autumn, and an arm in winter.

Spicy seafood chowder

Abundant with tomato (fresh or canned) and herbs (a mixture of fresh and dried), it’s an infusion of flavor and freshness. The fish stock lends to a rich background (veg or chicken stock is fine), and white wine layers in more flavor. Small shrimp or bay scallops (even leftover cooked poultry or pork or beans) would work a treat in place of the calamari if you don’t have or like them, but this is one of the best applications for these tender white rings we’ve yet to come across. Garlicky croutons a delicious finishing touch.

Though often served fried with a generous batter or breading, plain calamari (the term used for cooked squid) is one of the leanest types of seafood — a standout in protein and a host of other nutrients. They’re also quite inexpensive, and don’t involve much prep or time over the fire. In less than 30 minutes, start to finish, this spicy calamari stew bubbles up for a quick, delicious, healthful meal.

What’s in it for me?

One 3-ounce serving of cooked calamari (aka squid prepared as food) provides approximately 130 calories, only 1 g each of fat and carbohydrate, plus 28 g high-quality complete protein. This serving offers over 10% of your daily vitamin Cvitamin A and magnesium, in addition to roughly 50% and 75% that of iron and vitamin B12, respectively. Though higher in cholesterol (about 190 mg per serving), calamari, like other mollusks and shellfish, are exceptions in the “high cholesterol category” due to a negligible amount of saturated fat and zero trans fat – the two dietary factors that directly, and more importantly, contribute to higher blood cholesterol levels. For sustainability, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch recommends seeking out squid caught in the US; avoid imports.

Tomatoes are a rich source of the phytochemical lycopene that acts like a natural sunscreen, strengthens elasticity of skin tissues, aids in protection of the heart, and has been shown to potentially reduce risk of prostate cancer. Sulfur from onion and garlic is required for synthesis of glutathione — a powerful antioxidant critical in controlling inflammation and helping your immune system fight infections, improve cardiovascular health and potentially prevent cancer.

Parsley is a source of dietary nitrates that help improve blood pressure and boost blood flow to muscles during exercise, and is ranked #8 on the CDC powerhouse fruit and veg listThyme is among the fresh herbs highest in antioxidants, is a rich source of iron and vitamin C, and provides a good amount of vitamin K. The healthy fats from the olive oil enhance the ability to absorb this impressive nutrient line-up.

For anyone who loves seafood, spicy calamari stew emphasizes the briny brightness of the sea. Impress company, or just your family, with this simple, nourishing, and belly-warming recipe that comes together in under half an hour — perfect for any season or occasion!

Cheers, Heather

Tell me… Do you like calamari? If not, what would you replace it with here?

Spicy Calamari Stew with Garlicky Croutons
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total Time
Recipe Type: soup, stew, seafood
Makes: Serves 4
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small to medium white onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2/3 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more to garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh chopped tomato (from about 1 medium), or 1 14-oz can whole or crushed tomatoes with the juices
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) shellfish, shrimp or fish stock (or veg/chicken stock, or water)
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or unoaked Chardonnay (or more stock or water to keep it NA)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or 1/3 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes, to taste
  • 1 1/2 lb raw calamari (squid) rings, cleaned (or whole, cleaned, bodies thinly sliced and tentacles left whole)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cup garlicky croutons (see HGN Notes for recipe), optional
  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or pot with a lid heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook 1 minute more before adding the parsley; cook another 2 minutes, stirring. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, stock, thyme, and red chilli flakes. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and gently cook, lid set on top slightly ajar, for about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the lid, increase heat back to medium, and stir in the calamari. Keep the soup at a gentle simmer until the calamari is just cooked, about 2 minutes. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and/or more chilli flakes. Ladle out among 4 bowls, top with a sprinkling of fresh parsley, and a few of the garlicky croutons, if desired.
HGN Notes
GARLICKY CROUTONS (makes about 2 cups)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
2 cups cubed day-old bread (1/2-inch cubes)

Preheat oven to 375° F, and place a large baking tray on the middle rack to warm up as you prepare the bread.
In a large bowl, stir together the olive oil and garlic. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat. Remove the preheated tray from the oven, and carefully transfer the bread cubes over, spreading into a single layer. Bake, stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven, and set aside to cool slightly. Extras will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or frozen in a zipper-top bag for several months.

+ Replace calamari with 1 1/2 lb firm white fish fillets, such as halibut, cod, red snapper, tilapia, or sea bass, cut into 2-inch pieces; or try adding some tiny bay scallops or small shrimp
+ Make it vegetarian with cooked white beans (cannellini or navy), chickpeas, or favas as the protein, and use veg stock or water in place of the seafood stock
+ If you have diners with shellfish allergies, use veg/chicken stock, more white wine, or water in lieu of shellfish stock
+ Use fresh dill, oregano, marjoram, or tarragon instead of the parsley
+ For a richer, fuller flavor, try red wine instead of white
Nutrition Info
Serving Size: 1 bowl (1/4 of the prepared soup) + 1/4 cup croutons Calories: 303 Fat: 11 Saturated fat: 2 Unsaturated fat: 9 Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 19 Sugar: 4 Sodium: 177 Fiber: 2 Protein: 30 Cholesterol: 397

Recipe adapted from Giada de Laurentiis.

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