Black risotto with cuttlefish

Black risotto with cuttlefish

Risotto con le seppie

Laura Edwards

It is always a bit traumatic for people not in the know to be confronted in a Venetian restaurant with this speciality – black rice with a delicate fishy taste. The little cuttlefish of the Venice laguna are laden with ink, which is what colours the rice (and is also used as drawing ink). In the Veneto, for this risotto they use an indigenous risotto rice, which has short and round grains, called vialone nano.

Prosecco is the famous sparkling wine of Venice, which is the perfect drink while sitting and looking at the bustle of the Grand Canal. However, most Venetians stir their glasses of Prosecco before drinking, which has the effect of getting rid of the bubbles! Heating Prosecco has exactly the same effect, so you could, of course, use white wine instead . . .


Quantity Ingredient
500g cuttlefish, preferably small ones
1.5 litres fish stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
30g unsalted butter, plus a generous knob to finish
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
350g vialone nano or other risotto rice
75ml prosecco
freshly ground black pepper


  1. Get your fishmonger to clean the cuttlefish for you, if you can, but you must ask him to retain the ink sacs. Or, to do it yourself, pull the head and tentacles from the body tube. Take out the backbone and other internal matter. Among these body contents you will find a little blue-silver-coloured bag, which contains the ink. Save this. Remove the outer skin from the body tube. Cut away the eyes and the central mouth from the tentacles, and chop the rest – body and tentacles – into 1cm pieces.
  2. Put the stock into a suitable pot on the stove, next to where you will make the risotto, and keep it warm.
  3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large shallow pan, and fry the onion for about 10 minutes, until softened a little. Add the cuttlefish pieces, and fry for a further 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir around to coat each grain with fat. Pour in the Prosecco, and let it evaporate for a couple of minutes. Now start adding the hot stock in ladlefuls. Start to stir, and as soon as the first lot of liquid is absorbed, add some more, but not enough to drown it. Repeat for about 18–20 minutes – stirring and adding stock – which is when you should taste a grain of rice for your preferred al dente texture. Keep the rice moist but not too wet.
  4. When you are happy with the texture of the rice, add the ink and the extra knob of butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir well and serve – but not, please, with cheese.
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