The latest Key Ingredient, in which chefs challenge chefs with an ingredient of their choice.

The ink cephalopods release into the ocean to deter predators consists mainly of mucus and melanin. The thick, dark ink used to flavor and color dishes like pasta and rice, on the other hand—usually referred to as “squid ink” even though cuttlefish ink is more common for culinary purposes—is extracted from cephalopods that are already dead, and is mucus free (the ink sac is separate from the mucus that’s released). It does, however, have a high concentration of glutamic acid, the amino acid responsible for umami, the savory fifth taste.

JP Doiron of CH Distillery, challenged by Danielle Lewis of Gilt Bar to create a dish with squid ink, had never worked with the ingredient. While squid ink doesn’t add a lot of flavor, he says, it does have a strong odor. “It smells like a fishery,” Doiron says.

He went classic with the squid ink, incorporating it into fresh pasta. To make it, he added squid ink, white wine, and cool water to semolina flour, a recipe that came (minus the squid ink) from Avec, where he used to work. It was the first time he’d made pasta without eggs, and the preparation resulted in a very firm, slightly crumbly dough—though Doiron thinks that the squid ink could have contributed to the texture. The ink turned the dough a mottled gray-black, which appeared marbled when Doiron rolled it into sheets for ravioli.

He filled the ravioli with herbed ricotta and egg yolks, a combination he’s had success with in the past. After blanching a raviolo briefly in boiling water, he dropped it for a couple minutes into a pan in which he’d been browning butter, then transferred it to a plate and topped it with bread crumbs.

The warm egg yolk oozed out as Doiron cut into the raviolo, as he’d intended. “The squid ink,” he says, “adds just a touch of fishiness.”

  • Julia Thiel
  • Squid ink ravioli with herbed ricotta and egg yolk, in the process of construction

Who’s next:
Doiron has challenged Cosmo Goss of the Publican to create a dish with lutefisk, whitefish that’s been treated with lye. He figured it would be challenging to work with, Doiron says—googling “lutefisk” turns up a bunch of videos of people reacting to their first tastes of the traditional Scandinavian delicacy, and it’s not too far from Malort face.

Squid ink ravioli with ricotta

Squid ink pasta
1/5 cup squid ink
4.8 oz white wine
2 oz cool water
20 oz 00 semolina flour

Mix in stand mixer with paddle attachment until everything is well combined. This is a tough dough and will not come all the way together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and vacuum-seal it.

1 cup ricotta
1 t chopped chives
1 t chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Roll pasta very thin and cut into three-inch squares. Spread .75 oz ricotta in the center of a square of pasta, place egg yolk on top of ricotta. Brush edges with egg wash before placing a second square of pasta on top, seal edges, then cut with a ring mold. Boil raviolo until pasta is tender, toss in brown butter, and top with bread crumbs.