Just octopus! – Spaghetti con polpo

Spaghetti con polpo

There’s a joke running around the Los Angeles restaurant scene that if your menu doesn’t include a kale salad, a fancy octopus salad, and PBR, you might as well not even open your doors. The herd mentality of those on Yelp and other Los Angeles hipsters is driving chefs to a restaurant culture that is not found elsewhere in nature. Don’t even get me started on “small plates”!!

This recipe is not fancy, it simply celebrates octopus—straight up. It was a bit difficult to find fresh octopus in Los Angeles, and even then only baby ones. I’m still on the hunt for full sized octos here in LA. Stay tuned! And thanks to our reader Brian, for prompting me to make octopus.

I had this dish on the island of Capri, years ago. It was at big party in a beautiful garden house in Anacapri with a bunch of friends, but this simple preparation can be found from Naples, down through Calabria, to Sicily—the whole Tyrrhenian Sea is crawling with octopus!

This recipe serves 4 for a primi piatti and 2 for a main course.

Ingredients and Directions:

  • 6 or so cleaned baby octopus
  • Olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 anchovy filets or a squirt of anchovy paste
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups good quality tomato purée or smooth tomato sauce
  • 1/2 lb thick long strand pasta (e.g., spaghetti, bucatini (shown in photo), linguine)
  • Chopped parsley

That’s it!!

  1. Cut and confirm that the baby octopus are clean: cut each baby octopus down the center through the head. Clean the octopus under cold water and make sure the head sack is clean and empty, the beak is removed and all the ink is cleaned away. Drain in a colander.
  2. In a medium pot big enough to hold the sauce, add olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and red chili peppers and gently cook over medium-low heat until the garlic begins brown.
  3. Add the octopus and toss in the oil. Then add the tomato purée enough to cover the octopus. A splash of red wine would be a welcome addition here.
  4. With the lid on the pot ajar, cook the octopus over low heat or simmer for 1 hour. The octopus will release a large amount of water as it cooks so check several times during the cooking time. You want a thick sauce. Add more tomato purée or water if needed to end up with the right consistency. The baby octopus will be cooked after 1 hour.
  5. Cook the pasta to 1-minute short of the package directions.
  6. As the pasta is cooking, place the octopus and sauce into a skillet and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
  7. When the pasta is cooked, reserving some pasta water, drain and place the pasta in the sauce. Gently stir the pasta into the sauce for 1 minute with a wooden spoon, combining the flavors. If the the pasta is too dry, add a little of the pasta water.
  8. Serve pasta and evenly distribute the octopus on the dishes. Top with a little chopped parsley.

Join the Conversation

  1. Joe, for fresh octopus go to where the sushi shops go, a Japanese fish market like International Marine or even just a grocery store in Little Tokyo or K-Town, like the Galleria at Olympic and Western.

    1. Hi Frank!! I need to call you to catch up!! I did try two different markets in K-Town with no luck — Galleria and Assi Super. But International Marine — now there’s an idea. I will call you this week!! Thanks. Joe

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