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Air Fryer Calamari With Simple Marinara Sauce Recipe

marinara sauce and calamari rings
marinara sauce and calamari rings - Erin Johnson/Mashed

In a world where onion rings reign supreme in the ring-shaped appetizer competition, we'd make the argument that fried calamari isn't too far behind. The seafood appetizer, which boasts chewy squid on the inside and a crispy breadcrumb coating on the outside, typically undergoes a deep-fried treatment — thanks to this recipe from developer Erin Johnson, you can accomplish all of that crispy-crunchy goodness with an air fryer. Johnson says, "This air-fried calamari is the perfect way to have a light and tasty appetizer or snack without having to deep fry," a big plus for those who don't happen to have a deep fryer and don't want to fuss with a big pot of oil.

Adding to the praise of the nifty kitchen gadget, Johnson says, "I like using the air fryer because it's less hands-on and significantly less messy than frying. It also saves on using the oil!" Of course, this recipe makes more than just the air-fried calamari rings — you'll also whip up a zingy marinara sauce to pair alongside them, because no app is complete without an excess of dipping sauce. Enjoy your calamari and marinara on their own as a snack or as part of a larger spread — they're one duo that's perfect for both game days and potlucks.

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Gather The Ingredients For Air Fryer Calamari With Simple Marinara Sauce

ingredients for marinara and calamari
ingredients for marinara and calamari - Erin Johnson/Mashed

To start, you'll need some calamari rings and buttermilk to soak them in. "The buttermilk helps to tenderize the calamari rings and also helps to create a milder flavor," Johnson explains. When it comes time to air-fry the calamari rings, you'll need both panko and regular breadcrumbs. Then, you'll need a handful of ingredients to make the homemade marinara. San Marzano peeled tomatoes serve as the base of the sauce, while onion, garlic, olive oil, and dried basil help boost the flavor.

Step 1: Soak Calamari Rings In Buttermilk

milk pouring into bowl of calamari
milk pouring into bowl of calamari - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Combine calamari and buttermilk in a large bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Step 2: Begin Making Marinara

tomatoes and onion in saucepan
tomatoes and onion in saucepan - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Combine tomatoes, onion halves, and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat.

Step 3: Add Olive Oil

oil pouring into saucepan
oil pouring into saucepan - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Once tomatoes begin to bubble, add olive oil.

Step 4: Add Basil, Boil, Then Simmer

tomatoes, basil, onion in saucepan
tomatoes, basil, onion in saucepan - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Stir in the basil, bring sauce to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for at least 45 minutes.

Step 5: Remove From Heat

spoon lifting onion from tomatoes
spoon lifting onion from tomatoes - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Remove sauce from heat, discard the onion halves, and set aside.

Step 6: Prepare Breadcrumbs

plate and bowls with breadcrumbs
plate and bowls with breadcrumbs - Erin Johnson/Mashed

In a shallow bowl, combine breadcrumbs and panko.

Step 7: Coat The Calamari

calamari breading set up
calamari breading set up - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Dip calamari rings into the breadcrumb mixture, pressing down to ensure the coating sticks. Place onto a plate or baking sheet.

Step 8: Air-Fry The Calamari

calamari rings in air fryer
calamari rings in air fryer - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Add calamari rings to the air fryer basket or tray in a single layer. Cook for 6 minutes, or until calamari are soft and golden.

Step 8: Serve Calamari With Marinara

marinara and calamari rings
marinara and calamari rings - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Serve hot with marinara sauce on the side.

How Can You Switch Up The Calamari And Marinara?

marinara and calamari rings
marinara and calamari rings - Erin Johnson/Mashed

There's no doubt that the air-fried calamari rings and homemade marinara sauce make for a dynamic duo, but there is plenty of room to switch things up, or even skip the homemade marinara aspect altogether. "Marinara sauce is easy and delicious but it does take time to develop flavor," Johnson says. "If you want to save time, you can opt to substitute a prepared sauce." Of course, if you happen to love the from-scratch stuff, then you might "consider doubling the recipe for the sauce and having leftovers for pasta." Another easy marinara customization comes in the form of canned tomatoes; as Johnson tells us, "I prefer to use San Marzano peeled tomatoes as I feel that they have the best flavor, but you can use whatever you have on hand."

Meanwhile, there's room for some creativity (or ingenuity) with the calamari, too. Don't have both regular and panko breadcrumbs on hand? No problem. "I prefer the texture of a panko/bread crumb mix, but you could absolutely substitute with whatever you have on hand," Johnson says, though she does note that panko "works best in the air fryer." Finally, you could try giving your calamari a thicker outer crust. "Beat together 2 eggs and double batter the rings, using the egg wash in between each panko dredging," Johnson says.

How Should You Serve The Air Fryer Calamari?

calamari dunking in marinara sauce
calamari dunking in marinara sauce - Erin Johnson/Mashed

This recipe is unique in that it's a two-for-one special — not only do you get a delicious appetizer, but you also get a sauce to dunk it in. So, you don't necessarily need anything else to enjoy this calamari. If you aren't a fan of marinara or prefer something else, you could easily pair your crispy rings with another dipping sauce, such as ketchup, ranch, or aioli.

Should you serve the calamari as part of a bigger spread, think light and fresh fare to counter the air-fried nature of the squid. "I like to serve this with other antipasti as an appetizer or light snack," Johnson says. "I love to eat this with banana peppers, olives, salami, and cheese." Whatever you do, be sure to enjoy the calamari when it's fresh from the air fryer — as Johnson explains, "This is best eaten immediately and does not keep well, as the rings will lose their crispy texture in the fridge."

Air Fryer Calamari With Simple Marinara Sauce Recipe

marinara and calamari rings
marinara and calamari rings - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Prep Time: 1h 5mCook Time: 55mYield: 4 ServingsIngredients

  • 1 pound calamari rings

  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • 1 (28-ounce) can peeled San Marzano tomatoes

  • 1 onion, peeled and halved

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

  • ½ cup breadcrumbs

  • ½ cup panko

Directions

  1. Combine calamari and buttermilk in a large bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

  2. Combine tomatoes, onion halves, and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat.

  3. Once tomatoes begin to bubble, add olive oil.

  4. Stir in the basil, bring sauce to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for at least 45 minutes.

  5. Remove sauce from heat, discard the onion halves, and set aside.

  6. In a shallow bowl, combine breadcrumbs and panko.

  7. Dip calamari rings into the breadcrumb mixture, pressing down to ensure the coating sticks. Place onto a plate or baking sheet.

  8. Add calamari rings to the air fryer basket or tray in a single layer. Cook for 6 minutes, or until calamari are soft and golden.

  9. Serve hot with marinara sauce on the side.

Read the original article on Mashed.