The opportunity to cook octopus finally presented itself. My husband and I were making the rounds to see his family in and around Naples and our last stop was to see his great-uncle, Zio Antonio, who lives in Pozzuoli, a town next to Naples and the town where Sofia Loren is from. Pozzuoli is also famous for its fish market, which is one of the largest in Italy. My husband always tells me that serving fish to a Puteolano is a terrible ordeal, because fish is more than a passion for them, it is almost an obsession and nothing is as fresh as the fish in Pozzuoli.
Lucky for us, with this obsession comes a great sense of pride. Of course the conversation eventually came around to the topic of food, as it often does in Italy, and therefore fish. Zio Antonio explained to us that he had a friend who went to the fish market every Saturday for him to buy him his fish for the week. He pulled out 2 bags from the freezer and insisted on us taking them, he didn’t want us to go home empty handed. In one of the bags we found two beautiful octopus. Since we had a two hour drive back to Rome and they would defrost in the car, we had to be sure to make them the next day for our dinner.
- 2 lbs. octopus verace
- 1 cup of fresh pachino tomatoes, quartered
- 1 14 oz. can of tomatoes, peeled
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup of black olives
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 lb of linguini
- 1 handful parsley
- Salt & pepper
Make sure that your fish monger cleans the octopus, removing the innards, the eyes and the beak area of the octopus. Zio Antonio’s fish monger did not do this for us and it wasn’t a pleasant experience, though not terribly difficult.
Put the octopus into a heavy-bottomed pot, you don’t need to add salt to this because the octopus is already salty enough, add pepper to taste with the tomatoes, olive oil, parsley, garlic and place over low heat.
Cover the pot well and cook over low heat for 1 hour, add the pitted olives and continue cooking for another half hour to an hour, depending on the size of the octopus. Stir occasionally.
In the meantime, fill a large pot with water for the pasta. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water starts to boil for the pasta add a small handful of salt to the water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. After you have drained the pasta ladle the sauce from the pot with the octopus into the pot for the pasta and stir until the pasta is dressed. Sprinkle each plate with fresh parsley and serve immediately.
The octopus can be served on its own after the pasta course. Be sure to have good bread for the scarpetta (cleaning your plate with the bread).
I have to admit that even though the idea of making octopus scared me and cleaning them almost made me throw in the towel, they came out pretty well and I am now officially honorarily from la Pigna Secca in Naples.