Fried Calamari with Quick Marinara

Appetizers, Snacks

Fried Calamari with Quick Marinara |

No matter who you are, you’ll like this recipe. You’ll LOVE this recipe if:

A. You grew up in the 90s and used to go to TGIFridays with your friends where you’d eat appetizers only.
B. You and your parents would go out to dinner at Olive Garden and you’d order fried calamari and the tentacles would terrify you, but you’d still play with them and give them voices.
C. If you went to Macaroni Grill and loved drawing (borderline offensive) things on the paper tablecloths in crayon.

I know I just described my 12 year old self here but I also did all of these things in college, too. Very little spiritual growth happened for me during that time.

Fried Calamari with Quick Marinara |

I’m excited about this recipe. EXCITED.

I guess I can say that this is a fancy version of the calamari you had at any of those restaurants but that’d be kind of a lie. This is just the version that doesn’t have any prepackaged foods that they heat up in the wood fire grill so you think everything is homemade.

Everything just is, which automatically makes it better. If you’ve never purchased calamari at the grocery store to prepare at home, don’t be intimidated. Calamari is actually SUPER inexpensive. And at most grocery stores, they clean it up for you so it’s ready to go. All you’ll have to do is cut it up in 1-inch tubes. As a child, I was terrified of the tentacles. I thought they were super alien-esque and it made me think I was eating E.T. which was not ok because he was my favorite.

Fried Calamari with Quick Marinara |

Fried Calamari with Quick Marinara |

Now, I think they’re really pretty.

The one trick to good tasting calamari is to not over cook it. It overcooks quickly, so below you’ll see 1 to 2 minutes. Be sure to stick to that.

Oh and charred lemons. Good gracious. It makes it a million times better and it’s as simple as placing lemons on the grates of your gas range.

This appetizer is a bit of a time machine. And I loved it.

Fried Calamari with Quick Marinara |

Fried Calamari with Quick Marinara

0 from 0 votes
Serving Size: 4



  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 14-ounce can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup corn meal
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasonings
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound calamari and tentacles, cleaned and cut into 1-inch tubes
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3-4 sprigs of Italian parsley
  • 1 lemon, halved and charred


  • To a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the shallot and minced garlic; cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, grated carrot and Italian seasoning. Bring the tomato sauce for to a simmer and then immediately bring the heat down to medium low. Simmer, allowing the sauce to reduce, for 5 to 7 minutes. Mix in the salt and adjust seasonings to your liking. Cover the pot, so the sauce doesn't reduce anymore, and bring the heat down to very low.
  • In a medium bowl, beat together the two eggs. In a large bowl, toss together the all-purpose flour, corn meal, Italian seasoning, salt and crushed red pepper.
  • In a medium pot, pour in 3 inches of oil. Heat the oil to 325 degrees F. Working in batches, transfer the calamari and tentacles into the bowl with the beaten eggs. Transfer the calamari, a few handfuls at a time, into the flour mixture, being sure the calamari is thoroughly coated. Using a fork (I found this to be the best tool), drop the flour-dusted calamari into the hot oil, cooking for 1 to 2 minutes, until light brown. Transfer to a bed of a paper towels to drain. Place the fried calamari into a warm (200 degree F) oven while you fry up the rest of the calamari. Repeat the dredging, frying steps until you've worked your way through all of the calamari. For garnish, add a few sprigs of Italian parsley to the hot oil, cooking for about 1 minute.
  • Transfer the calamari and fried Italian parsley plate and serve with warm marinara sauce. Garnish with the charred lemon.
Did you make this Recipe? Tag me Today!Tag @acozykitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #acozykitchen


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Leave a Reply

  • Reply Phoebe @ Feed Me Phoebe May 21, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    SWOON. If only my GF version looked half as delicious πŸ™‚ One day…

  • Reply Iris May 20, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Love tentacles even more. I used rice flour instead of all purpose for a lighter crispy coating.

  • Reply Meg @ The Housewife in Training Files May 20, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Oh you just made my favorite appetizer of all time! And I just see myself in your explanation of your 90’s self! Why else would you go to Macaroni Grill than to draw on the table? I love the simplicity of this recipe. It will definitely make it into our kitchen soon!

  • Reply Francesca May 19, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    This looks awesome. And my mom charred her lemons + peppers over the gas stove <3

    That *does* make it so much better.

  • Reply Todd May 19, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Haha!! This is awesome – a time machine, indeed. I fit two out of those three categories πŸ˜‰ I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never tried the grilled lemons idea. Can’t wait to try!!

  • Reply Christina @ but i'm hungry May 19, 2014 at 10:17 am

    I cannot wait to try these! My husband will die of happiness- calamari is his favorite. We never ever have it at home, it just doesn’t really occur to me. But he always orders it as an app when we go out, so I’m sure if I made it, his mind would be blown. I mean, I wouldn’t be complaining, either. πŸ™‚

  • Reply stephanie @ iamafoodblog May 19, 2014 at 10:14 am

    mmm…i love calamari. so yummy πŸ™‚ i still favour the bodies over the tentacles, though!

    and the charred lemon and deep-fried parsley…lady, you rock!

  • Reply Abby @ Happy Food Happy Home May 19, 2014 at 9:59 am

    The tentacles are my favorite!! I have no idea why!
    Though ET scared the bejezus out of me when I was little. Something about him hiding in those stuffed animals…it made me think he was hiding in mine. Of course I’ve also never watched The Wizard of Oz because it scared maybe I was just a weird kid lol.

  • Reply Heather @ Sarap Life May 19, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Wow, I was totally transported to sitting at dinner at Olive Garden with my family eating bowls of calamari. So good! Didn’t realize it was that easy to put together. Yum!

  • Reply Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) May 19, 2014 at 7:43 am

    Love the touch of fried parsley! πŸ™‚ And yep, I think I’ve only been to TGIF a handful of times in my life (definitely in the 90’s) and I would always get the chicken fingers and a side of mint chocolate chip shake. So good. Never been to Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill, haha!

  • Reply Belinda@themoonblushbaker May 19, 2014 at 4:42 am

    This is actually my last Friday night meal! I adore fried calamari, especially in Aus. where it is dirt cheap!
    Love the accompanying sauce; got to try this week.

  • Reply Marie @ Little Kitchie May 19, 2014 at 4:15 am

    LOVE this. I’ve been wanting to make calamari at home! I recently made it in a cooking class where we fried thin slices of lemons along with it… YUMMMMM.

  • Reply Librarian Lavender May 19, 2014 at 1:26 am

    This looks really good! Every since I’ve first eaten it I’ve loved calamari, tentacles or not it tastes great! I’ve never tried to make it at home though, maybe I should because this recipe looks like it’s something I could do. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Rebecca May 19, 2014 at 12:59 am

    Hahah, I am actually also a bit freaked out by the tentacles… maybe I miss on some great food, but I just cannot overcome my fears and eat it πŸ˜›
    Nevertheless, it looks rather yummie I have to admit πŸ˜‰ Especially the non-tentacle-calamari-part πŸ˜€
    Take care πŸ˜‰ Rebecca