How to prepare octopus: our advice – Italian Cuisine


Fresh and tasty dish, the octopus is easy to prepare and gives great satisfaction both as a condiment for first courses and in salads

The octopus it never fails on our summer tables and on Mediterranean menus. It is found all over the Mediterranean Sea and often with a little luck you can spot it at sunset hidden among some rocks along our coasts. Trying to catch it is not an impossible feat: the octopus is in fact attracted by the white color and often you can catch it with a stick equipped with a hook, attracting it with a rag to flush it out from the ravines where it hides. If the company turns out to be too bold, you can always opt for a fish market, where it would still arrive very fresh, within 24 hours of capture.

Grilled octopus
Grilled octopus

The choice of the octopus

Like all fish products, octopus is also easily perishable and for this reason, consumption must take place quickly enough after purchase. Choosing a very fresh specimen it is therefore essential: firm and elastic flesh, as well as shiny skin and well-consistent suckers are the details that can help in the safe purchase.

Boiled octopus
Boiled octopus

How to clean it

Tackling the cleaning of a specimen of this type could cause many doubts: in reality the operation will result faster and easier compared to many other types of fish. First wash it under running water, then cut it at the tentacle attachment and deprive it of the eyes. Peel the hood and, by reversing it, clean it from the entrails. Rinse again. Pushing then at the point of attack of the tentacles, make the beak come out and eliminate it.
Even in the cleaning we find differences from region to region: in the North, for example, it is also customary to remove all the suckers, which instead are maintained in the countries of the South.
In the case of a specimen of a certain size, skin and tentacles can be removed: an operation that is normally easier once boiled.

How to cook it (and keep it soft)

The real worry in the kitchen is being able to keep the octopus soft. The wrong cooking makes it chewy and therefore not very palatable. If the preparation involves boiled octopus, the advice is to dip it in a large saucepan, with cold water, together with herbs, onion, celery, carrot and a bay leaf. Cover the pan when the water starts to boil and then cook on a low heat for about an hour. The mistake not to make is to remove the octopus from the pan once cooked: to keep the meat soft, it is absolutely necessary that it is left inside its own water until it has cooled down.

Often it is advisable to freeze the octopus a few days before consuming it: the low temperatures in fact help to "hang" the meats, making them more tender.

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Get creative in the kitchen: five preparations with octopus!

Octopus is an ingredient that lends itself to various preparations: it is excellent grilled, cut into pieces and then browned with garlic and cherry tomatoes as a ragù for a spaghetti.

Become a single dish if, cooked for an hour with herbs, carrots, onions and potatoes, it is seasoned with green beans or other vegetables sautéed a few minutes on the fire and then laid on a songino base seasoned with a cream of basil and pine nuts.

It can be proposed as appetizer in a summer dinner if boiled and then stewed for a few minutes with a beat of celery and onion, to which you can add halved cherry tomatoes and lemon zest. Everything will then be served on Apulian croutons toasted in the oven and greased with a drizzle of oil before being served.

In the more traditional version it is proposed in salad, accompanied by boiled potatoes, chopped celery, Taggiasca olives and a sprinkling of sweet paprika, in homage to the Galician tradition.

Those who are not afraid strong flavors he can cook it in a saucepan in which three medium-sized onions have been cut into thin slices, preferably of Tropea quality. At this point add the octopus, a drizzle of oil and a glass of white wine. Cover the pot and cook for about an hour in the water produced by the same octopus. The meats remain crisp, with a delicious onion sauce.

Anyway you want to cook it, do not forget to add a cork stopper to the cooking water: it is said that without the octopus it remains hard. Popular beliefs or not, why take a risk?

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