Braised Octopus with Spaghetti
Polpi in Purgatorio

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Braised Octopus with Spaghetti
Polpi in Purgatorio
cookbook: Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
main ingredients: octopus
user comments (0)

serves: 6 servings

I love this simple method for cooking whole octopus so it explodes with flavor. You just put it in a heavy pan and let it cook very slowly (with only olive oil, sliced onions, and olives to season it) for a couple of hours. As it cooks, its releases all of its natural, tasty water, which serves as a braising liquid. Though the meat loses some volume, its flavor is retained in the liquid, which naturally cooks into a great dressing for spaghetti or other pasta.


½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 octopus, cleaned, about 1 1/2 pounds each
1 cup Gaeta olives, or other black brine-cured pitted olives
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to cook pasta
1 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped


Pour 6 tablespoons of the olive oil into a saucepan, and set it over low heat. Scatter the onion slices over the bottom of the pan, and lay the octopuses on top. Scatter the olives over the octopuses, cover the pan, and let the octopuses heat slowly, releasing their liquid, and starting to cook in it. After an hour or so, uncover the pan and check to see that there is plenty of octopus liquid in the pan. If it seems dry, add 1 cup of water at a time. This recipe should yield 2 cups of sauce when the octopus is done.

Continue the covered slow cooking for another hour, until the octopuses are very tender. Start testing for doneness after 1 3/4 hours. Stick the tines of a fork in the thickest part of each octopus; when the fork slides out easily, the meat is done.

Remove the octopuses from the pot, and let them cool slightly. To make a meaty octopus sauce, cut

both octopuses into 3/4-inch chunks, skin and all. Measure the liquid remaining in the saucepan. Again, you should have about 2 cups total. If the volume is greater, return the juices to the saucepan and boil to reduce it. Put the cut octopus meat and the juices in the skillet for dressing the pasta.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Drop in the spaghetti, stirring and separating the strands. Cover the pot, return the water to a boil over high heat, then set the cover ajar and cook the pasta until barely al dente. As the spaghetti cooks, bring the octopus meat and sauce in the skillet to a rapid simmer; taste, and add salt if needed (octopus is naturally salty). Stir in the parsley. Lift the spaghetti from the pot, drain briefly, and drop it into the skillet. Toss the pasta and the simmering sauce together for a minute or two, until the spaghetti is nicely coated with sauce and perfectly al dente, and the octopus chunks are distributed throughout the pasta. Turn off the heat, drizzle over the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and toss again.

Heap the spaghetti into warm bowls, making sure each portion gets plenty of octopus pieces, and serve immediately.

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