Calamari Stewed with Tomatoes

This Southern Italian calamari stewed with tomatoes, known as calamari in umido in Italy, is slow-cooked in tomato sauce with onion, fennel, garlic, red wine, and parsley. Crusty bread for dipping is a must!

Calamari Stewed in Tomatoes
Elise Bauer

Squid can be cooked one of two ways: For the blink of an eye, or for a long, long time. Anything in between and it is rubbery.

This dish, which is our version of a Southern Italian classic called calamari in umido, takes the long view of calamari cooking.

Easy Italian Stewed Calamari
Elise Bauer

Think of this dish as something between a stew and a pasta sauce. It’s every bit as good as-is—with crusty bread, of course—as it is accompanying pasta (go with a short pasta like penne, bowties or fusilli) or, even better, a creamy polenta.

You can even add a little cheese to the polenta, if no one’s looking. Italians rarely mix seafood and cheese.

More Italian Seafood Recipes To Try

Calamari Stewed with Tomatoes

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 75 mins
Total Time 90 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings

You can buy frozen, cleaned squid in the freezer section of many grocery stores. Defrost by placing in refrigerator overnight, or in a bowl of ice water. This recipe does call for an anise-flavored liquor, which you can leave out if you want, but the dish will be better with it in.


  • 2 pounds cleaned calamari (squid), tubes sliced into rings and tentacles roughly chopped

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 sliced onion

  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1/4 cup Sambuca or other anise-flavored liquor

  • 1 cup red wine

  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped

  • 1/4 cup fennel fronds, chopped


  1. Sauté the onions, fennel, garlic, and tomato paste:

    Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and fennel. Stir to coat with oil and sauté, stirring occasionally, until it begins to color, about 5 to 6 minutes. Sprinkle some salt over it.

    Add the garlic cloves and tomato paste and stir well to combine. Cook this for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once or twice.

  2. Add the red wine:

    Stir the wine in well and increase the heat to high. Boil until the liquid is reduced by half.

  3. Add the Sambuca and crushed tomatoes:

    Add the Sambuca (or other anise-flavored liquor) and the crushed tomatoes. Stir well.

  4. Stir in the calamari and simmer:

    Simmer for at least 1 hour. After an hour, taste a piece of calamari; It should be tender. If it’s not, keep simmering. Check for tenderness every 15 minutes afterward.

  5. Season:

    Once the calamari is tender, taste the stew for salt and pepper, adding if needed. Add the chopped parsley and fennel fronds. Stir well to combine and serve.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
314 Calories
12g Fat
20g Carbs
27g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 314
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 15%
Saturated Fat 2g 9%
Cholesterol 352mg 117%
Sodium 378mg 16%
Total Carbohydrate 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 27g
Vitamin C 30mg 152%
Calcium 120mg 9%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 987mg 21%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.