Cuttlefish with peas

Mediterranean Diet presents to you today: some important advices about cuttlefish’ properties.

The cuttlefish:

The cuttlefish is a cephalopod mollusk with an oval body, flattened and surrounded by a fin; from the body protrudes the head with 10 tentacles, two of which are longer, retractable and with the end full of suckers. It can reach up to 35 cm. The colouring is variable from males to females and provides them with good camouflage ability. Inside the body (in the mantle), there is a bag of ink that runs out in dangerous situations.

image_largeIts body, full of gas bubbles that make it lighter than water, is supported by an inner shell, said “cuttlefish bone”. In this way the shellfish floats. The cuttlefish, once cleaned, is white. It is sold fresh (usually with the ink sac) or frozen. «Seppietta» or «seppiola» is often confused with a small cuttlefish: in reality, it is a pinkish white mollusk of 3-4 cm, which is distinguished from the cuttlefish (“seppia” in Italian) for the presence of two fins around the sides and for the lack of an internal support, typical instead for the cuttlefish.

 Varieties of cuttlefish

In the Mediterranean Sea, there are two other varieties of cuttlefish: the Sepia elegans” and “Sepia orbignyana, both smaller. In the Pacific Ocean, however, lives the “Sepia esculenta“, smaller than the Mediterranean one and finally, in the Atlantic the “Sepia bertheloti” is widespread and of considerable size.


April and May are the best months to fish for cuttlefish, which occurs through baskets, pots or nets, while winter fishing for cuttlefish takes place off the coast using trawl nets.

How is cuttlefish used?

Typically bag-shaped, cuttlefish are usually cooked stuffed, in the oven or stewed. Excellent with peas, larger ones are ideally grilled, while the smallest can be breaded and fried.Cuttlefish are also used to prepare tasty sauces to dress pasta, especially fresh pasta, as in the case of the typical lasagna from Bari or “in zimino“, i.e. sliced, sauteed with olive oil, garlic and chilli pepper, then cooked with boiled beets, white wine and a bit of tomato sauce.

The ink is highly appreciated for the flavor and scent of the sea, but it is also the part that deteriorates more quickly, for this reason it is good to prefer whole cuttlefish and then clean them. In addition, the ink is often used to give color to dry pasta, such as the tagliatelle photo above.

Cuttlefish with peas


Cuttlefish are tender especially during their season (spring). Regarding the cooking they should be either cooked for a very short time or for very long. Putting them in a freezer for a few days, they will become more tender after cooking.

How to choose them?

Counterintuitively, the larger the cuttlefish, the more tender the meat. To assess the freshness you must observe the ink: if it is congealed then the cuttlefish was frozen.

It is also helpful to be sure of its iridescent color, without special stains on the body and a strong smell of the sea; beware from buying instead cuttlefish with meat not solid, and pay attention that the eyes are still of a shiny black.

Another indication of origin and freshness can be obtained by analyzing the size of the animal in relation to the season: the small cuttlefish  below 100 grams are from August to November, those more than 300 grams are found in the winter months.

How to store them?

The squid are perfectly conserved frozen and even if they lose a little flavour, frozen cuttlefish result more tender than fresh ones. They are very delicate and can be kept in a refrigerator for one or at most two days, while, once frozen, are preserved in the freezer at -18 ° C for 3 months.

How to clean them?

Rinse well under running water to remove the sand. Remove the head from the body,  also the majority of the intestines will come out. Try not to break the bag with the ink and set it aside for a good risotto. Eliminate “the bone”. Remove the skin. Remove the beak and eyes.


From a nutritional standpoint cuttlefish is very similar to “lean fish“, whose consumption is highly recommended. In addition to noble proteins, the squid contain phosphorus, calcium, potassium and many vitamins, all with a reduced calorie intake: perfect for weight-loss diets, provided you do not overdo the seasonings. They are very digestible, maybe only a little tiring to chew because they contain lots of fibres, while frozen ones are more tender.

Cuttlefish with peas

Today our experts propose a tasty and easy second dish.

Ingredients  –
-800 g of small cuttlefishes
– 500 g peas
– 1 glass of dry white wine
– 1 slice of garlic
– 1/2 dl olive oil
– salt
– pepper


1) Eviscerate the cuttlefish, cut the bags into strips and tentacles into pieces.

2) In a frying pan heat the oil, let the garlic brown and then remove it, put in the container cuttlefish and peas, stir, sprinkle the wine and let it evaporate, add salt and pepper and cook for about 20 minutes.

3) Withdraw, transfer everything on a platter and serve immediately.


The team of the Mediterranean Diet invites you to the next article to find out the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and the recipes of the Mediterranean diet.

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