Cuttlefish, Asparagus and Meatballs

Ross Burden creates a gutsy Spanish dish of cuttlefish, asparagus and meatballs simmered in a rich tomato sauce thickened with a 'picada' of fried bread, onion and garlic
By Ross Burden
Cuttlefish, Asparagus and Meatballs
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time:
  • Prep Time: 55 minutes
  • Effort: medium



  • 1 kg cleaned cuttlefish or squid
  • 400 g asparagus, tender parts only
  • 1 slices stale bread
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 100 g tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 400 ml chicken stock
  • 125 ml dry sherry
  • rice or thick crusty bread, to serve

For the meatballs:

  • 2 slices bread
  • 50 ml dry white wine or stock
  • 200 g lean minced pork
  • 200 g minced veal
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped onions
  • a little freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • flour, for coating
  • 3 tbsp olive oil


1. Cut the cuttlefish into 1cm thick fingers, separating the tentacles.

2. Blanch the asparagus for 1 minute in a large saucepan of boiling water. Drain and set aside.

3. To make the picada, fry the slice of bread in a little olive oil until golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.

4. Add the onion to the pan and fry over medium heat for 5 minutes until translucent. Then add the garlic and fry for a further 30 seconds. Add the parsley and stir briefly until wilted.

5. Transfer the onion mixture to a blender. Add the fried bread and whizz to a purée - this is the picada.

6. Heat a little more oil in the pan and sprinkle in the flour. Stir over low heat, until it browns - this gives the sauce a richness. When chocolate-coloured, but not burnt, gradually stir in the stock. Stir until well blended, then simmer until fragrant and reduced.

7. Add the tomatoes to the stock and cook until they start to disintegrate.

8. Stir in the picada to thicken the sauce. Either push through a sieve or purée in a blender until smooth.

9. Tip the mixture into a casserole and add the cuttlefish. Simmer over very low heat for about 30 minutes until the cuttlefish are tender, topping up with water if necessary.

10. Whilst this is cooking, make the meat balls. Sprinkle the bread with the stock to rehydrate; squeeze and combine with all the other ingredients, except the egg and flour, until homogenous.

11. Form the mixture into marble-sized balls. Coat with beaten egg and then flour.

12. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, and fry the meatballs over a high heat until browned. Drain
on paper towels.

13. Add the sherry and the asparagus to the casserole. Slip in the meatballs and bring to boiling point. Simmer for a minute or so before serving with rice or bread.

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