Black Fettuccine with Fennel, Shrimp, and Chili Oil

This is a beautiful and distinctive seafood pasta dish. Black Fettuccine, or fettuccine di nero di seppia in Italian, is made with the black ink of squid or cuttlefish. This gives it an arresting color and the faintest tinge of the ocean on your tongue. It looks stunning, and incidentally recent research suggests squid ink may be useful in combating cancer. The sauce is a luscious tomato, white wine, and butter sauce studded with anise-y fennel and spiked with chili oil. If you can find them, rock shrimp are especially delicious but any shrimp will do. Frozen or fresh shrimp are superior to pre-cooked. Get to know a good fish-monger.


Makes four hearty portions

  • 1 pound of squid ink pasta
  • 5 ounces of tomato marinara
  • 3 tbsp cold cubed butter
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, diced
  • half-dozen scallions, bias sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 10 ounces peeled, cleaned shrimp
  • fresh picked parsley leaves for garnish
  • 2 tbsp chili oil (or EVOO if you can’t do chilies)
  • salt for pasta water and for dish (to taste)
mise en place
Fennel, chili oil, scallions, and garlic cloves. Photos by Chez Grey ©2017

Cutting up fennel is similar to cutting an onion. Fennel bulbs do have a cone-shaped tough core that needs to be removed before you chop them up. Please use sharp knives! Below you can see how I have removed the core from the fennel bulbs and trimmed the top stalks.

bulbs bulbs bulbs
Fennel bulb with the core removed. All photos by Chez Grey ©2017

Cut the fennel bulbs into medium dice.

Diced fennel. All photos by Chez Grey ©2017

Now cut the scallions on a bias, a.k.a. diagonally. Don’t feel obliged to use the whole scallion if you don’t like the look of the tops.

Scallions cut on a bias a.k.a. diagonally. All photos ©2017 by Chez Grey

Next, slice up your garlic. A mandoline makes quick work of this, or use your knife. Fancy mandolines are frankly a pain. My favorite is this Japanese standby model.

Chili oil is easy to make. Take a few of your favorite chilies, cut them into small dice and marinate them in high quality olive oil. If you prefer a more robust flavor, simmer it over low heat for 30 min.

Bias cut scallions, sliced garlic cloves, and homemade chili oil. Photo ©2017 Chez Grey

Now we heat up our skillet and get our pot of water going on the stove for the pasta. We begin by sauteeing the fennel and garlic in the chili oil over medium heat. We want the fennel to turn slightly translucent and loose their hard crunch, but not turn totally soft.

Sauteeing fennel and garlic in chili oil. Photo ©2017 by Chez Grey

Next we will add the raw shrimps, the marinara sauce, and butter. Do not use warm soft butter, use cold butter as it will emulsify the sauce much better. Do not worry about adding the shrimp raw – shrimp are easy to overcook, and they will be perfect in the few minutes it takes the sauce to come together while we let the pasta finish cooking.

Adding shrimp, marinara, and butter. Photo ©2017 by Chez Grey

Add the white wine and let the sauce emulsify and reduce a little. If your emulsion breaks, you can add a little pasta water and toss to bring it back. At this stage you would do well to test the sauce for salt and add it if needed.

Add wine. Photo ©2017 by Chez Grey

Just before we combine the sauce with the cooked pasta, we will add the scallions and parsley so they retain some of their freshness in the finished dish.

Add scallions and parsley last. Photo ©2017 by Chez Grey

Toss the cooked pasta* with the sauce and serve. Enjoy!

Black fettuccine with fennel, shrimp, and chili oil. Photo ©2017 by Chez Grey

*I prefer my pasta al dente. That is the best and most authentic Italian way! But you must not be a slave to the time printed on the package. The only sure method to know when pasta in finished is to take out a piece, put in into your mouth and bite it. Yes, the pasta be will be scalding hot but do not be a pussy. Also, some pedants argue that seafood pasta should not be served with cheese. If you want to eat it with cheese I think you should not be a slave to those losers inconsequential opinions. Live your own life!



Some links are Amazon affiliate links. You pay no extra. We receive a small commission.


Dispatch from the Third Reich – a 1935 letter from Nazi Germany.

Dispatch from the Third Reich

Excerpted from an August 1935 letter from an American friend of my grandmother named Gladys, who was travelling through Germany & Europe.

Pre-war German architecture
Looking across the Wilhelmsbrücke bridge over the Neckar River to Bad Cannstatt, Stuttgart, Germany. Photo by Chez Grey ©2015

“But I suppose I should be talking about Germany, as we spent nearly a month there. We loved Germany, and found the people there the most cordial and sincere we met anywhere. They certainly know how to enjoy themselves too.

“Everywhere trains were crowded with Germans going about sightseeing – whole families together during the weekends. Companies of children travel much also, with just one or two chaperones. Hitler has organized all the children, from about eight years up, into clubs, something like boy and girl scout organizations, and these groups sometimes travel for weeks, staying at cheap camping places prepared especially for them.

“I don’t favor Hitler at all, because he is a tyrant and cruel to the Jews and any who oppose him – but just the same he has done much to unify Germany and create a more hopeful and enthusiastic spirit. The groups of children, as they march, sing very stirring songs, and so do the groups of marching Nazis, to be seen everywhere. Economically, Germany is improved. The young men are put to work in labor camps, or as soldiers, and you see no street beggars, as you do all over England.

“The only thing that scares me about Germany is the militarism, and yet it is very apparent that the German people don’t want war. What Hitler wants is another question, but I think he’d be afraid war might mean his downfall, as it did the Kaiser’s. What he seems to want is to make Germany strong, and give her her proper place among the nations – she has been an underdog for so long. The German young people have become very athletic, and have fine builds.

“We’ll hope they aren’t just going to become cannon fodder. Our general impression was that Hitler is very popular, but we learned from a German girl who returned from America to visit that most of her German friends and relatives are opposed to him, but of course are afraid to say so openly. One woman told our friend that her husband, who refused to join the Nazis, though he did nothing against them, was dragged from his bed one morning and beaten by the Nazis – in his own house – and then taken to jail. His wife learned nothing of him for two weeks, and didn’t know what had been done with him. Now he is free, but his job has been taken from him, and the family must live on the dole.”

This is the best book about the rise of Hitler’s Germany.

Post-war German architecture
Rathaus (City Hall) in Stuttgart, Germany. Photo by Chez Grey ©2015