Croatian Dalmatian black risotto

Food & wine

In the mood to try a new Croatian dish? This Dalmatian black risotto made with squid ink is a great option for seafood lovers.

Almost anyone will know a risotto when they see one. Risotto is a true Italian delicacy: silky and creamy, with three essential ingredients — rice, onions, and broth. It brings a warm feeling of comfort food, is easily prepared, and comes in many shapes and forms. You can make risotto with meat, seafood, or in the vegetarian version. All are tasty in their own way, but in certain geographical regions, some are more popular than others.

Even though many households have some version of this popular rice dish, today we’re talking about one very special and close to the heart to many Dalmatians — the famous black risotto! 

One key ingredient that gives black risotto its distinctive colour is also responsible for making this recipe super healthy. Thanks to this mysterious ingredient, black risotto is packed with antioxidants, proteins and iron, far more than the traditional version. 

The history of the dish

Before we start cooking, let’s embark on a different type of culinary journey and dive into the history of risotto. 

It dates all the way back to the 14th century! Seven centuries ago, the Arabs brought rice to Sicily and Spain, and through the marshes of the Po river valley, rice cultivation eventually spread from Naples to northern Italy. The Mediterranean climate proved to be excellent for growing rice. With various spices imported from the East, the rice dish we now know as risotto gained popularity all over the region. Since then, the risotto fan base grew over the world, and so did the recipe variations! 

The key ingredients: what makes black risotto black?

Originally from northern Italy, risotto can be the base of many tasty combinations — it can be prepared with mushrooms, chicken, beef or seafood. The latter is a delicacy all over the Croatian coast. This particular risotto is known under the name black risotto, because of its distinctive black colour. The official name is cuttlefish risotto. 

The cuttlefish is known for its black ink, which is the main ingredient of this tasty dish. It is a common fish in the Adriatic, so there’s no doubt it’s been freshly caught, especially if you’re having it at the seaside.

Before making black risotto, the cuttlefish must be cleaned and the innards taken out. Additionally, the tiny beak needs to be extracted. But most essential, the ink sac needs to be removed and kept aside. The cuttlefish can then be chopped or sliced into small pieces. 

This type of risotto can also be made with squid. In that case, squids are prepped in the same way as the cuttlefish. 

The key ingredients for making the black risotto are the following: 

  • Cuttlefish
  • Rice
  • Onions 
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Fish broth
  • Dry white wine
  • Concentrated tomato paste
  • Fresh parsley
  • Butter

Note that when it comes to rice, not all types will give you the same silky consistency of the risotto. Short-grain rice called Arborio, named after the Italian town of Arborio is frequently used to make this dish. However, Carnaroli, a medium-grain rice from the northern Italian provinces, has a longer grain, a harder texture, and a higher starch content than Arborio. Both are good choices, but if you’re a cooking beginner, keep in mind that the Arborio can be more forgiving for risotto preparation.

Traditional recipe: how to make Dalmatian black risotto?

The recipe is quite straightforward, and as we mentioned earlier, really easy to make. Before you start cooking, prep all the ingredients mentioned above: chop your onion, garlic, and parsley, clean the cuttlefish and slice it too.

After prepping the ingredients, heat up a pan with some olive oil. Pay attention that the oil doesn’t get too hot before you add your first ingredient — chopped onions. Saute onion for a couple of minutes, and then add garlic and cuttlefish. Season to taste with salt and freshly grinded pepper. Slowly add some fish broth — you don’t want to pour too much! Let all simmer for 10 minutes on medium heat.

After that, carefully add the ink, cook until you have a homogenous batch, and then toss the rice. It should be cooked for sufficient time to absorb the dark liquid while maintaining al dente. If you opt for Arborio rice, cook it for approximately 20 minutes. Add fish broth and white wine to maintain the silky consistency of the risotto.

Add a spoonful of concentrated tomato paste in the last ten minutes, and taste the risotto before finishing it. Add some parsley and a tablespoon of butter, and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

Despite being made with white wine, black risotto has the flavour and colour reminiscent of a robust earthy red. However, the flavour is nuanced — sharp but not overpowering, distinctive but not repulsive.

Finally, although the black risotto is quite tasty all by itself, some people like to sprinkle it with some parmesan cheese. If you’re a parmesan lover, go for it!

The benefits of eating dalmatian black risotto

Lean protein and veggies give the risotto a well-rounded nutritional profile. The cuttlefish ink, the star ingredient of this dish, is beneficial for improving red blood cell count and can help fight anaemia. 

Carbohydrates, which the body needs to function, are abundant in risotto. Since glucose is the primary energy source for the brain, eating enough carbohydrates is crucial for a healthy brain. Your body converts carbohydrates into glucose that can be used immediately or stored for later.

If you’re interested to know more about traditional cooking habits and ingredients in Dalmatia, check out our blogpost about the benefits of Mediterranean cuisine. 

Once you’ve mastered the theoretical part, it’s time to get to the good stuff, the practice part! There’s no better place to actually taste all these fresh ingredients and the delicious black cuttlefish risotto than in one of our Camp restaurants, so hurry up and book your tasting session!