with Marinara & Ricardo Sauces

by RRR

Of all of the corporate restaurant chain’s Calamari appetizers, Carrabba’s is my favorite by far!  2 reasons.  The first is the dredge they use before frying is loaded with cracked black pepper.  The second is the Ricardo Sauce.  Oh, the Ricardo Sauce!  Liquid gold.  It’s a butter, white wine, cream and lemon reduction with sautéed red peppers and sliced pepperoncini peppers.  They also serve it with a Marinara, too, which is a nice bonus, if I say so.  And, whenever we order it (which is every time we eat at Carrabba’s), I always move the Marinara over for the rest of the table and covet the Ricardo for myself.  I suppose I could just order a second side of it, but where is the fun in that?

Owned and operated by the restaurant industry giant, Bloomin’ Brands, Carrabba’s Italian Grill is one of their most popular and lucrative concepts.  The restaurant chain, founded by 2 Italian-American boys from Galveston, Texas, Damian Mandola and John Carrabba, features Italian-American cuisine.

But, I find that the recipes from Carrabba’s always put a different spin on the traditional Italian favorites.  And while I, personally, don’t take issue with that, it is obviously a complaint that the restaurant chain has heard before.   A quote from the founder’s, taken from Carrabba’s website reads;  “So give us a break here. Don’t go picking over our Grandma’s and Mamma’s and Aunt’s and Uncle’s recipes, whining about this not being the way they did it at your house. Great! We’ll go to your house, this is the way the old folks taught the young folks. This is the way we remember things tasting. And this is what it all comes down to-with generous sprinklings of life, love and oregano-for two Sicilian boys from Texas who love to cook and eat.”

Let’s talk about fresh calamari for a moment.  I realize that for some, working with fresh calamari may be out of your comfort zone.  I get it.  TBH, working with raw chicken grosses me out.  I do it all the time, but I have a thing about raw chicken.  So, if you prefer not to use and prepare the fresh calamari, or if you can’t find it in your market, then use the “fresh” frozen version found in your freezer section.  Most large stores, including Walmart, has it.  Just don’t buy a breaded version, however, because you will be breading your own and it is so, so much better.  And a *Tip, make the sauces before frying the calamari.  As with most things fried, you’ll want to eat it right away and you want the sauces to be at the ready.

Serve with Carrabba’s Pollo Rosa Maria and Carrabba’s Mama Mandola’s Spicy Chicken Soup and Enjoy!

Carrabba's Fried Calamari with Marinara & Ricardo Sauces

Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )


  • Calamari
  • 1.5 lbs. fresh calamari, tubes and tentacles
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 TBL cracked black pepper
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Canola or vegetable oil, for frying
  • Fresh lemon wedges for serving.
  • Marinara Sauce
  • ½ cup celery, chopped
  • ½ cup white onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 TBL EVOO
  • 1 ½ cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. Italian Seasoning (Good Seasons works well)
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper (or more to kick it up)
  • Ricardo Sauce
  • ¼ cup red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3 TBL jarred pepperoncini, seeded, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 TBL unsalted butter
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 TBL dry white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 TBL fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp. Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flake
  • ¼ tsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. cornstarch


Marinara: Place the celery, onion and garlic in a food processor and process until grated.  In a medium-sized saucepan and on a med-high heat, add the EVOO.  Once oil begins to shimmer, add the celery/onion/garlic and sauté 3-4 minutes until fragrant and softened.  Add the canned tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper.  Simmer and reduce for 10 minutes.  Set aside for serving.

Ricardo: In a medium-sized saucepan, and on a med-high heat, melt the butter and grate in the garlic.  Sauté the garlic until fragrant but do not allow to brown.  Add the white wine and cook off the alcohol.  Add the red pepper and sauté until softened.  Whisk in the heavy cream, lemon juice and cornstarch.  Continue to whisk, frequently, and reduce the sauce by 1/3.  Set aside for serving.

Fried Calamari:  Cut the calamari tubes into ½” slices and leave the tentacles whole.  Working in batches, drop the calamari into the beaten egg to coat.  Remove the calamari from the egg, knocking off any excess and toss in the seasoned flour.  Ensure that the calamari is well coated with the flour mixture.

In a wok or large sauté pan, heat 2” of the oil to a minimum of 365 degrees.  Working in small batches, place the dredged calamari into the fry oil for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the fried calamari from the oil and place aside on a paper plate to drain.  Continue this process until all calamari is fried.

Serve the fried calamari, immediately, with the 2 sauces and lemon wedges.  Optional, add more cracked black pepper to the fried calamari.  Carrabba’s fried calamari is “heavy” on the cracked black pepper.


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