Tomato-Braised Stuffed Squid with Grits

Shop This Video

The Italian coast meets the American South in this surprisingly cost-effective dish.

By Jesse Griffiths
May 10, 2023
2 Hours
4 Servings

If all you know of squid is fried calamari served in a red plastic basket, then buckle up: This is nothing like that. While we have the greatest respect for what is surely one of suburban America’s favorite seafood appetizers, we confess to preferring this version—a classic Italian coastal dish celebrating a cheap and abundant protein—by a significant margin. Chef Jesse Griffiths begins by cleaning and breaking down each squid into tubes and tentacles, then stuffs them with an herby sausage filling. A few toothpicks help reattach each tube to its respective tentacles (watching  the video below may help) and the Frankenstein’ed cephalopods are ready to be braised in a simple tomato sauce made in the Dutch Oven. Not one to stick too close to tradition, Chef Griffiths opts to serve this over pillowy grits rather than polenta—after all, this is Texas.

Tomato-Braised Stuffed Squid with Grits

The Italian coast meets the American South in this surprisingly cost-effective dish.

Jesse Griffiths

2 Hours
4 Servings
  • For the tomato sauce:
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, lightly crushed
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar (optional)
  • For the stuffing and squid:
  • 6 ounces fresh hot or sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 sprigs basil, chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound fresh small to medium whole squid (tubes and tentacles), or 1 pound cleaned squid bodies, with or without tentacles
  • For the grits:
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup grits or polenta (not quick-cooking)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

    Make the tomato sauce: Heat oil  in a large Dutch Oven over medium-high. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add dried oregano and bay leaves, stir to toast slightly, then season with salt and pepper. As soon as garlic turns light golden brown, immediately add tomatoes and sugar (if using) and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally and crushing tomatoes lightly with a wooden spoon, until just thickened, 15–20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Tomato sauce can be cooked and stored in fridge for up to 5 days.


    Preheat oven to 350F.


    Make the stuffing: Combine sausage, breadcrumbs, lemon zest and juice,  basil, half the   parsley, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside.


    To clean the squid: Separate tube from tentacles by gently pulling apart. Locate quill, a long thin piece of transparent cartilage in tube that feels a bit like plastic. Remove it by grasping end and pulling it out, then discard. Clean out any remaining material from tube. Separate tentacles by slicing just under eyes (discard top portion with eyes). Spread open tentacles and squeeze to remove beak; discard.


    Holding squid tubes in one hand, use your forefinger to fill each about ⅔ full with the sausage stuffing. (It helps to roll a bit of stuffing into a tube shape, then press into tube.) Do not overfill or tubes will burst in oven (if they burst they will still taste just as good!). Reattach tentacles to stuffed tubes using 1–2 toothpicks, pushing all the way through tubes. Arrange in a 9x13” Baking Dish.


    Pour tomato sauce over stuffed squid and cover tightly with foil.  Bake 1 hour.


    While squid is baking, make the grits: Bring chicken broth, half-and-half, bay leaves, and a pinch of salt to a simmer in a 2 QT Copper or Stainless Saucepan or 3 QT Saucier. Add grits or polenta in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Turn heat to low and cook according  to package directions,  stirring often to prevent scorching, until grits are thickened and no longer raw, 15–20 minutes. Season with salt and stir in butter. Discard bay leaves.


    Remove toothpicks from squid and serve over grits. Top with extra tomato sauce from Baking Dish and finish with remaining parsley.