This recipe is very practical because you can eat the octopus as it is shown in the last picture of the photograph sequence or you can use the octopus in tomato sauce to top spaghetti; both ways are fine and delicious to eat. Octopus is very common on the tables of the countries facing the mediterranean, but unfortunately it is underestimated in the northern part of Europe, especially where I live (Scotland); when I mention octopus to people they look at me if I am an alien! Go for it and enjoy this with a nice glass of chilled white wine.
Ingredients (Metric & Imperial measurements):
Ingredients (U.S. measurements):
Note 1: in this recipe I didn't manage to buy a 1.5 Kg (3 pounds 5 ounces) octopus because it was not available at the fish counter, so I decided to use a couple of octopuses instead, one weighing 900 g (2 pounds) and the other one 600 g (1 pound 5 ounces). Ask the fishmonger to clean the octopus so that at home you only need to give it a good rinse under fresh water. Anyway, I suggest you check “octopus preparation”, featured in the top tips section of the website, where you can find some good tips on how to clean an octopus and how to tenderise its meat.
Note 2: capers are usually preserved in vinegar or salt so, before putting then into the pan, rinse the capers under fresh running water and then pat them dry using kitchen paper.
To start, put the sun dried tomatoes in a little tray filled with cold water. Let them soak for a bit until they soften (I would say 30-40 minutes).
Take a big pot, fill it with cold water and add the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves, some mixed peppercorns. Also add a couple of pinches of salt and then bring it to the boil.
Meanwhile, take the sun dried tomatoes out of the water, pat them dry using kitchen paper and roughly chop them together with the clove of garlic.
When the water in the pot starts boiling, put the octopus into the pot and boil until the octopus is tender. A rough guide is to boil for 1 hour per kilogram of octopus, but this generally applies only if you have properly tenderised the octopus meat before boiling. To tenderise the octopus, check “octopus preparation”, featured in the top tips section of the website.
This photograph shows the octopus after about 45 minutes boiling.
Halfway through the boiling time you can turn the octopus over and continue boiling. When you think it is time to remove the octopus from the pot, try to cut one of the tentacles with a knife. If the tentacle is tender and easy to cut, then turn the cooker off and let the octopus cool down in its own water.
During the boiling, the octopus skin will turn to a purple colour. Remove the main loose bits with your hands, in order to uncover most of the white meat. Then, cut the octopus in pieces, roughly 3 cm (1 1/4") long.
Meanwhile, you should have previously chopped the sun dried tomatoes and the garlic together. Get them ready for the next stage.
Put the olive oil into the pan and heat it on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the sun dried tomatoes and garlic. Sweat them off for about 3 minutes or until the garlic starts changing its colour.
Next, add the olives and capers.
Stir and continue cooking for a minute or so.
Now, add the chopped tomatoes.
Stir, bring it back to the boil and cook for 5 minutes.
Then, turn the heat down to low and season with salt.
Season with ground black pepper.
Add the red wine vinegar.
Add the sugar.
Stir and continue cooking for about 15 minutes to reduce the sauce.
Next, put the cut pieces of octopus into the pan.
Bring everything back to simmer point, cook for a couple of minutes and that's it!
Now, serve the octopus with some slices of crusty rustic bread or, even better, use the sauce as spaghetti sauce; you will be surprised how good it will be.
Federico Pezzaioli is an ex-badass Italian Paratrooper on a mission - to make creating delicious authentic Italian food really easy. He researches, writes and photographs each recipe with the same attention to detail he used to apply to packing his parachute.
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