Ditch the fried calamari and fall in love with this light and healthy, quick and easy Mediterranean-inspired version. Fresh calamari rings are lightly sauteed in a tomato sauce bursting with flavor from shallot, chilis, capers, and pickled peppers, all topped with an herby crunchy panko topping. This dish comes together in less than 10 minutes!
Ok, I know… let's get this out of the way first: you have likely never made calamari at home and the thought of it is slightly overwhelming. Stick with me, you won't' believe how easy it is to make light, healthy calamari BURSTING with flavor.
WHY YOU'LL LOVE THIS RECIPE
- Restaurant worthy! This dish is a flavor powerhouse marrying bright and acidic tomatoes, tender calamari, briny capers, and sweet and spicy peppadew peppers.
- One Pan – Seriously it doesn't get easier than this. Simple clean-up, one pan, no muss, no muss.
- No Frying Required! Most calamari dishes require frying the calamari, not this sauteed version. Trust me you won't miss the crunchy fried goodness, this dish is topped with herby crunchy panko breadcrumbs and the calamari is simply sauteed. Don't get me wrong I love a good fried calamari, but this recipe is not that, and yet, genius in its own right 🙂
- Versatile! Perfect for a light summer bite with a glass of chilled white wine, or to serve as a simple appetizer for a crowd. I've also served this on Christmas Eve for “Feast of the Seven Fishes”.
- If you love delicious seafood recipes you have to check out my retro shrimp dip, and party-worthy shrimp cakes with spicy mayo dipping sauce.
2 MINUTES? REALLY?
The entire recipe takes more like 20 minutes, but the calamari only cooks for 2 minutes. Yes, really!
Let's Get Cooking!
INGREDIENTS and SUBSTITUTIONS:
Detailed measurements and ingredients can be found within the recipe card at the end of this post.
- Wild Atlantic Calamari – See below for a breakdown of the difference between calamari and squid. For this recipe, I used Wild Atlantic Calamari which I ordered from Vital Choice. It arrived frozen, I simply had to defrost, pat dry, and slice. Calamari should be cooked at high heat for a few minutes for best results.
- Tomato – Canned cherry tomatoes or diced tomatoes work best. I also tested the recipe using tomato “passata” which is an uncooked tomato puree with the skins and seed removed. I preferred the canned cherry tomatoes, but quite honestly any tomato product will work here.
- Shallot – Tender mild shallot works best in this recipe. In a pinch you could easily use scallions or finely diced white onion.
- White Wine – A dry Italian white is best, but any white wine hanging around will do as you are only using 2 tbsp. You can sub dry vermouth or broth/stock or even water.
- Capers – Oh yes, bring on those little green pearls of salty goodness! Feel free to sub finely diced kalamata olives in a pinch, but truly capers are the best option.
- Peppadew Peppers or “Sweety Drop/ Pepper Drops” – Peppadew peppers can be found at the olive bar at your local grocery store, they are a little sweet, spicy, and perfectly pickled. The mini version – sweety drops or also called pepper drops provide the best surprise pop of sweet, tangy, spicy goodness. You can also find jarred or canned versions of both of these peppers near the pickles. Here is a brand that I like.
- Panko Breadcrumbs + Fresh Herbs – Parsley is the herb I use in the summer, in the winter I use parsley and rosemary or parsley and oregano. A combination of all 3 will also work. The herbs are combined with crunchy panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free breadcrumbs) to create an herby buttery crunchy topping. Don't skip this part, it is next-level delicious.
TOOLS YOU WILL USE:
- Start by making a crunchy herby breadcrumb topping. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, melt a bit of butter, and add breadcrumbs and a big handful of chopped fresh herbs. Toast for a few minutes until the breadcrumbs are slightly brown and smell amazing. Set aside.
- In the same pan you used to toast the breadcrumbs begin your calamari saute by heating olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until softened about 4 minutes. Add white wine and stir to reduce by half. Add tomatoes, capers, peppers and a pinch of crushed red pepper or aleppo pepper. Saute all together for 5 minutes.
- Add calamari and cook for 2-3 minutes until calamari is no longer transparent and cooked through. Turn off heat. Top with breadcrumbs and serve.
What is Calamari? Is it Squid?
Calamari is a type of squid. There are over 300 species of squid, but very few are used in the culinary world.
Calamari is firm and white and has a mild taste that is easily adaptable to many flavors.
This recipe is a mash-up of the best two calamari dishes I've ever had.
The first is “Sicilian Lifeguard Calamari”, a Maria Batali dish that Jordan and I ordered dozens of times at his popular restaurant Babbo in Greenwich Village. It is a combination of quick sauteed (2 minutes) calamari, in a sweet and spicy tomato sauce with currants, pine nuts, caper berries, and couscous.
The second “best” calamari dish is from a beat-up clam shack in Rockaway beach new york. I begged Jordan to take me to the beach on a beautiful spring day in 2021. On our way home we stopped at “Lenny's Clam Bar” because of Covid they were only open for takeout so we ate our calamari in the parking lot of a Chuck E Cheese, so much for ambiance!
But the calamari was SO GOOD! Fried calamari in a spicy tomato sauce with an obscene amount of pickled peppers. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
I created this recipe as an homage to both, sauteed, but with crunchy breadcrumbs, pickled peppers, a little brine, and good tomato sauce.
- There is no need to “tenderize” calamari when you are high heat sauteeing. Tenderizing calamari in a mixture of milk and salt is a common recommendation for fried calamari. This is not needed in this calamari saute recipe. The calamari will be tender, as long as you don't overcook it. Calamari should be cooked for 2 minutes or one hour – anything in between will produce tough results.
- Where to Buy Calamari – You can find calamari frozen and cleaned in the frozen section of your grocery store or ask your fish monger for it. Ideally you want it cleaned, as cleaning squid is not a terribly fun activity.
STORAGE, REHEATING, FREEZING, AND MAKE-AHEAD INSTRUCTIONS:
This recipe is best freshly made. If you have leftovers you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 day, but honestly, it is not fantastic reheated.
You can make this in advance of a party by prepping the breadcrumbs and setting them aside. Prepare the sauce and simply reheat and saute the calamari right as you are about to eat.
DIETARY MODIFICATIONS FOR THIS RECIPE:
- Gluten-Free – Use gluten-free breadcrumbs
- Low Fodmap – Use green scallions in place of the shallot
- Whole 30, Paleo, Keto-Friendly – Replace breadcrumbs with 1/3 cup almond flour
MORE RECIPES YOU WILL LOVE:
I can’t wait for you to try this Easy Sauteed Mediterranean Calamari! When you make it, snap a photo and tag me on Instagram @abrapappa or use the hashtag #abraskitchen so I can feature your photo!
If you’ve tried this recipe, don’t forget to rate it and leave a comment below. I love to hear from people who’ve made my recipes!
Spicy Two Minute Calamari
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium shallot, divided Reserve 1/2 for panko topping in a small dice, slice remaining shallot for calamari sauce
- 2 tbsp white wine
- 1 cup tomato canned cherry tomatoes or canned diced tomato
- 2 tbsp capers
- 1/4 cup peppadew peppers diced
- pinch crushed red pepper or aleppo pepper
- 1 lb calamari, sliced into rings
Crunchy Panko Topping
- 1 tbsp salted butter
- 2 tbsp diced shallot
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup fresh herbs either all parsley or a combination of parsley, rosemary, and oregano
Crunchy Panko Breadcrumbs
- You can prepare this in advance and set it aside or prepare it while the tomato sauce is cooking. In a skillet melt butter and saute finely diced shallot until soft and no longer translucent. Add breadcrumbs and toast until nutty and slightly brown. Stir in fresh herbs and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and saute sliced shallot for 3 minutes until fragrant and no longer translucent. Add white wine, stir and cook for additional 2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, capers, peppers, and a pinch of crushed red pepper to the pan and cook together for 12-15 minutes stirring frequently. Add a generous pinch of salt and black pepper. Taste sauce for seasoning, and adjust as needed.
- Prepare calamari, pat dry and slice into rounds. Add to pan and cook for 2 minutes. Do not overcook or the calamari will turn rubbery.
- Top calamari with breadcrumbs and serve immediately.
- Serve as an appetizer – this will feed 4-6 as a small appetizer. Serve with sliced baguette and crisp white wine.
- Serve as dinner – Serve this calamari for dinner as part of a big seafood feast with other dishes like Mediterranean shrimp salad, salmon chowder, halibut with chickpeas, or salmon chowder. Or for a simple dinner serve this calamari with garlic oil pasta and a big green salad to complete the meal. (this will serve 2 for a simple dinner or 4 if you are serving multiple seafood dishes)
- Cook's tip for leftover calamari: This recipe is best enjoyed immediately. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for 2 days, but I don't recommend reheating the calamari. Enjoy it the next day as a cold salad.
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