The 'shanivar' spaghetti that we had in London

The ‘shanivar’ spaghetti that we had in London

We were in London and we opened our eyes to find ourselves trapped inside Eyot House as it was raining heavily that Saturday.

Going out anywhere seemed impossible as it wasn’t the usual London drizzle but a rather heavy downpour. ‘Doesn’t happen often,’ remarked Monika and then added, ‘but don’t worry, it will stop in a couple of hours and then we can all go out to the Bermondsey Farmer’s market.’ We must’ve had a really quizzical look because Pushkin laughed and replied, ‘this market has a lot of stalls with organic produce and the farmers come down to London every second Saturday to sell them directly to the consumer.’

This did seem interesting and exciting too as walking along the Thames was always welcome. The Eyot House flat was a mere ten minute walk from the Tower Bridge. As it was raining outside and there wasn’t much else to do, I opened my gmail to check if there was anything that needed to be attended to. The first mail was from some horoscope site that had simply refused to get unsubscribed… and I had got accustomed to opening it daily and reading the predictions for the day. That day’s ritual of reading the predictions for Taurus led to an interesting recipe!

The predictions for the day also mentioned that I needed to eat something that had a predominance of black in it. I looked up and said, ‘A strange prediction. It tells me that it will be lucky if I eat something black.’

‘Black?’ echoed Pushkin and scratched his head, looked at Monika and then suddenly both of them spoke together, ‘let’s try the squid ink spaghetti!’

Specky, who was silent all this while, asked, ‘Do we have squids at home?’

‘Not needed,’ spoke Pushkin, ‘this one is quite interesting variation and was suggested by an Italian friend of ours. We have tried it and I’m sure you’ll love the taste.’

The day was going to be one of those ‘get-involved-in-the-kitchen’ days and so the four of us got up and waited for Pushkin to tell us what to do next.

Monika took out the container where they had stored their stock of Del Monte spaghetti, and showing it to us, said, ‘We prefer this one as the taste is better. Otherwise we can use squid ink spaghetti too. With this though we’ll need to use a tablespoon of squid ink.’

‘Ah! So this one will turn black,’ I asked, and added, ‘and I can safely call it the ‘shanivar spaghetti’ now.’

Pushkin took out his kitchen gloves and a little bottle that was supposedly the squid ink, and informed, ‘Much safer to use gloves. Squid ink is like a dye and leaves stains.’

Specky was given the task of boiling water with a tablespoon of salt, and Monica helpfully added that this would keep the spaghetti separate and give it a mild salt tinge that generally suffices.

Monika then took out a pan and said, ‘I’ll add two lugs of extra virgin olive oil now.’ She waited with a mysterious smile until I asked, ‘Why lugs?’ To which Pushkin said with a laugh, ‘She is trying to tell you that she is fascinated with Jamie Oliver!’

Monika then added, ‘When you pour olive oil from most bottles it will come in little waves of sort. Each will make a “lug” or “glug” sound. So 2 lugs will be the amount that sounds like “lug-lug” when you pour more or less. This sort of thing makes cooking so much easier and so much intuitive.’

Pushkin thought of himself as one of those very scientific cooking experts who prepared food by exact measures as they were mentioned in recipes, and so these cooking-lugs never seemed to be logical to him.

As the pan was already hot and olive oil doesn’t like to be heated without a reason, Monika then added 4 cloves of chopped garlic that Pushkin had done painstakingly, and with a fanciful wave placed 2 red chillies in the pan.

The boiled spaghetti was then added along with chopped spring onions… and voila, the recipe was almost done.

All I did (yes, even I needed to contribute to the making of this meal)was to cut the baguettes into two halves and wash the rocket leaves before they were placed in the plates.

This was a rather unique meal – and black spaghetti, despite what it may look like, tastes great – but then, Del Monte spaghetti always tastes great, doesn’t it? Especially if it is cooked in Del Monte Extra Virgin oil!

Squid-ink spaghetti recipe

Squid-ink spaghetti or Del Monte spaghetti with a tablespoon of squid-ink (available at every fish monger)
Fresh red chillies
Spring onions
Parmesan cheese
Del Monte extra virgin olive oil


1. Boil water with tablespoon of salt
2. Add squid-ink spaghetti to boiling water (or Del Monte regular spaghetti with a table spoon of ink),  and don’t forget to wear gloves  if using fresh squid-ink as it is like a dye and leaves stains
3. While the water gets to boil, heat pan and add 2 lugs of extra virgin oil. Don’t heat oil as pan is already hot and extra virgin oil doesn’t like heat so add chopped 4 cloves of garlic with 2 red chillies immediately
4. Add boiled spaghetti, chopped spring onion and the dish is ready to serve with a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese, some green accompaniments (we chose rocket leaves) to make it all full of more nutrition. Half a baguette with this generally suffices

The making of the 'shanivar' spaghetti

The making of the ‘shanivar’ spaghetti

What the serving looks like without the parmesan cheese gratings on top

What the serving looks like without the parmesan cheese gratings on top

Story behind the recipe

Later that afternoon as we were walking by the Thames towards London Bridge, Monika and Pushkin told us how this recipe actually came into existence.

Monika began, ‘Every time we walked past this Italian shop in Shad Thames, we presumed it to be a really expensive one as it is in an exclusive and expensive locality.’

‘Then one day this black spaghetti pack displayed in window caught our attention,’ added Pushkin, ‘and we just went in to enquire that what it is and this beautiful Italian girl told us it is normal spaghetti but it gets black colour because of squid ink.’

‘I’m sure anyone would be amazed to such pasta,’ I said.

Pushkin then told us that the pack on display was costing ten times the cost of normal pasta, but the Italian girl at the counter was helpful and asked us to try it. ‘We were so encouraged by what that Italian counter sales girl told us, that we thought of trying out this dish at home.’

Monika was now dreamily saying, ‘We did read a lot of recipes on the net but then we decided not to kill the beauty of black spaghetti with too many ingredients, many of which we may be trying for the first time.’

‘Yes,’ added Pushkin, ‘no point making a mish-mash where the charm of black spaghetti gets over-shadowed by other more powerful ingredients.’ With his usual penchant to add the final brainy comment, Pushkin said, ‘Monica is a pretty intuitive cook and so we went ahead with our home-made recipe just like the dadi-nani-ka-achaar that we have back home.’

‘So we decided to go ahead with our recipe with Del Monte spaghetti and extra virgin oil,’ Monika said with a wave of finality, and smiled.

Hope you guys fall in love with this Saturday wonder… the shanivar spaghetti!


This post is a part of ‘The Del Monte Blogger Recipe Carnival‘ on indiblogger.


Arvind Passey
22 September 2012