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A seafood dish prepared in spring as we anticipate and wait for the summer to make its official entry.  These pleasantly tender, chewy & grilled baby calamari (which could either be made with squids or cuttlefish) are easy to prepare with bright lemony and fennel flavors and stuffed with a delicate filling of various greens, fresh aromatic herbs and creamy ricotta cheese.

It’s a simple dish to make throughout the year with frozen seafood unless you prefer to wait for the official fishing season for different squids and cuttlefish. If buying frozen calamari, please remember that when they defrost, they’ll lose about 20% of their weight in water so choose the total weight needed accordingly.

I’ve chosen small squids for this dish to become little delightful morsels of 2-3 bites each but if using larger ones, remember that the body wall thickness will be much thicker and chewier.

The filling is a mixture of simmered greens such as spinach, fennel bulb, onions, garlic, fresh herbs and of course, ricotta and an egg and of course. You can modify the filling proportions and add more ricotta and less spinach for a lighter colored filling. The tentacles are also fried up and added to the filling so nothing goes to waste and they add texture. Try to reserve some of the cooked greens filling (before adding the egg, ricotta and tentacles) to add to the rice for something more flavorful and colorful than simply white rice.

To assemble them, you’ll need a piping bag because even if you have a tiny espresso spoon, it’ll be very difficult to fill them up until plump, then pinching them shut and using thin metal skewers or toothpicks to keep them shut. And don’t forget a splash of olive oil and lemon juice and some herbs and spices to finish them up before baking and broiling.

They bake relatively quickly and puff up beautifully but a little broiling on both sides of the stuffed squids will make them tastier and more appealing, almost like you had grilled them.

And obviously, to make them more summery, to be served with rice and some lemon wedges and a light sprinkling of lemon zests and fresh dill … :)

stuffed baby calamari with spinach & ricotta & fennel


30 pieces x 25 grams each


  • 500 grams (30 pieces or 3 cups) small squids, cleaned (or 375 grams / 2 cups squid tubes + 125 grams / ¾ cup squid tentacles, weights are after cleaning or thawing & straining from an initial weight of 625 grams)
  • 325 grams (6 cups) spinach leaves, torn or chopped
  • 125 grams (1 cup) green or white onions, sliced thinly
  • 125 grams (1 cup) fennel bulb, grated
  • 25 grams (2 tbsp) garlic, crushed
  • 10 grams (2 tsp) anchovies, finely chopped 
  • 10 grams (4 tbsp) dill fronds, chopped
  • 10 grams parsley (4 tbsp) leaves, chopped
  • 2,5 grams (1 tbsp) fennel fronds, chopped
  • 5 grams (¾ tsp + ¼ tsp) lemon zests
  • 10 grams (1 ¼ tsp + ½ tsp + ¼ tsp) fine sea salt
  • 3 grams (½ + ¼ tsp) ground pepper
  • 2 grams (1 tsp) fennel seeds, crushed or ground
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) celery seeds (or ½ tbsp grated celery)
  • 165 grams (1 ¼ cups) ricotta cheese
  • 60 grams (¼ cup or 1 large) egg, beaten
  • 5 grams (1 tbsp) breadcrumbs (or dry couscous grains)
  • 120 ml (¼ cup + 1 tbsp + 3 tbsp) olive oil
  • 30 ml (1 ½ tbsp + ½ tbsp) lemon juice
  • 60 grams (½ whole) lemon wedges (8 slices)


  • clean the fresh squids or thaw the frozen squids, strain well and separate the tube bodies from the tentacles and keep in 2 separate bowls (you should have ¾ of tubes and ¼ of tentacles in overall weight)
  • simmer the sliced onion and the grated fennel in a deep pan with ¼ cup olive oil at medium heat for 5 minutes until tender, then add the crushed garlic and chopped anchovies and simmer for another 2 minutes, add the chopped spinach leaves, the 1¼ tsp salt and the ½ tsp ground pepper and the crushed fennel seeds and all of the fresh herbs and cook for an additional 5 minutes until wilted and finally add the lemon zest and set aside until cooled and adjust to you taste for saltiness
  • *note : you can reserve 3-4 tbsp of the cooked vegetable filling to add to the rice later if you like …
  • quickly simmer the tentacles in 1 tbsp olive oil with ¼ tsp of salt, then add ½ tbsp lemon juice and stir, reserve the mixture and juices until cooled
  • beat the ricotta with the egg until smooth, add the mixture to the vegetable filling and mix until well combined and add the cooked tentacles and its juices and finally the breadcrumbs and set everything aside
  • *note : if you prefer a whiter and creamier filling, add more ricotta and less of the green vegetable filling and use that remaining extra vegetable filling to flavor the rice later …
  • prepare a pastry bag with a large tip to fill the squid bodies and enough thin mini metal skewers to close them up (if you don’t have enough small skewers, you can use 1 skewer for 2 filled squid tubes if they are long enough, my skewers measure 9 cm each)
  • fill each squid tube until full, then pinch shut, remove any extra filling that may have leaked and use a skewer to pierce the open end 2 or 3 times to keep them shut (like sewing, one under and one over and one under again), then set aside on a baking dish covered with baking paper and continue until all stuff squid tubes are ready
  • drizzle the stuffed squids with a mixture of 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp ground pepper and 1 tsp chopped dill fronds and cover and refrigerate up to half a day or bake them immediately
  • to serve the baked squids with rice, you can simply boil 5 cups salted water and add at least 1 ¼ cups (275 grams) of well-rinsed and soaked long-grain or basmati rice, boil for 10-15 minutes until cooked and strain and 5 minutes before serving, combine the cooked rice with any leftover or reserved vegetable filling (without the egg nor ricotta nor tentacles) and heat up the rice and filling mixture in a frying pan with 1-2 tbsp butter and/or 1-2 tbsp olive oil until warmed through and season again to your taste
  • preheat the oven to 190°C
  • bake the stuffed squids on the middle rack for 15 minutes until the stuffed squid bodies puff up and then increase the temperature to 230°C and switch to broil (and perhaps switch the baking dish to the top rack) and broil for 2-3 minutes until slightly browned, then remove from the oven to turn over the broiled squids, and broil the undersides for an additional 2-3 minutes
  • serve 4 plates with 7-8 warm stuffed squids each, sprinkled with extra lemon zest and fresh herbs and 1 cup of warm cooked rice and some lemon slices
  • *note : the serving size per dish should be approximately 175-200 grams stuffed squids with 200 grams cooked rice …