I love octopus. You name it, I love it (grilled, boiled, braised, etc.).

Any octopus fans out there? Yes, you say. Have a favorite preparation? If so, please share.

Braised polipetti (baby octopus) is one of my hands down, all-time favorite dishes. As the octopi stew, they release much of their water content, which melds with the tomatoes and red wine to yield a slightly briny, rich and thick sauce that is nothing short of lick-the-bowl-clean delicious.

Octopus can be tricky to prepare. Cook it too short, octopus will be rubbery and give your jaw an unpleasant workout; cook octopus too long, it loses its al dente chew. A slow, gentle braise of octopus on the stove-top strikes that sweet spot. Essentially a one-pot stew that simmers low and slow for about forty minutes until the octopi are perfectly tender. Sometimes, I’ll add a handful of baby spinach to the sauce towards the end of cooking.

I have a secret source for octopus (maybe in Brooklyn, hush, hush). Whenever I make a day trip from Philly to NYC, I pack a cooler and load up on my favorite cephalopod. If you can’t find baby octopus, this recipe also works wonderfully with squid, which is much easier to come by.

I served my braised octopus with squid ink spaghetti that I made using a chitarra (details to follow at a later date). As welll, you can serve the braised octopus with store-bought spaghetti, couscous, or, my preference, fregola (fregula), the latter being a Sardinian pasta made from semolina flour that is formed into small spheres and toasted in the oven until nutty. I like to finish the dish with a sprinkling of homemade breadcrumbs for added texture and chopped parsley.

A little bit of Italy right here at home. Perfect!

Squid ink pasta alla chitarra…the instrument below is a chitarra. Chitarra, which literally translates to ‘guitar’, has strings like a guitar and sings to you as you roll out the pasta. Of course, you don’t need a chitarra to make homemade spaghetti, but it’s a fun process nonetheless.

Braised Baby Octopus

serves 4
2 lbs. baby octopus
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, small dice
4 cloves garlic, smashed
4 tablespoons parsley, chopped, divided
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup tomato passata (such as this)
pinch of chile flakes
Sea salt
Fregola, pasta, or couscous
Toasted breadcrumbs for serving

In a deep sauté pan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, smashed garlic, and half of the parsley. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the wine. Cook until the wine has evaporated. Lower the heat and add the octopus. Let the octopus simmer for 5-7 minutes.

Add the tomato passata and chili flakes, and cover the pan with a lid. Simmer over medium-low heat for 35-40 minutes or until the octopus is fork-tender. Taste  and season with salt as needed. Sprinkle with the rest of the chopped parsley.

Serve with fregola (or pasta or couscous). Sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs if desired.

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Wow, that looks amazing – and your images are great.


Thanks Sian!


Nice dish. Any luck finding good quality, tiny octupuses in philly?

Could you share your bklyn source? My son, living in Brooklyn, would appreciate learning about a reliable vendor and might bring some treasure to his papa.


Hi Gil, You might try Ippolito’s (1300 Dikinson Street) in South Philly. They do special orders and have good quality seafood. My source in Brooklyn is Octopus Garden (88 Avenue U). What part of Brooklyn does your son live?


My son is in crown heights, very close to the 23 regiment armory. I recently sent him a gift cert for catalina offshore because he frequently boasts about “amazing fish deals” like red grouper filets@10$/#. I wanted him to have a verified baseline for quality comparison.

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