Octopus In Tomato Sauce with Pasta

I can’t remember the first time I had octopus. I may have tried the rubbery plain kind you find on top of nigiri sushi back in Kuala Lumpur, but the first time I had octopus that didn’t try to dislodge my teeth was in a taverna in Thessaloniki, approximately 13 years ago. It was divine. Grilled, seasoned with olive oil and oregano. Heavenly smooth. That is the beginning of my love affair with this cephalopod mollusc. This dish is relatively simple. It’s extremely tasty, and it goes a long way if you are planning to have a dinner party that doesn’t require too much work, but still wow your guests. Here I have served it with small short macaroni like pasta – it goes well with this sauce, but you can serve it with crusty bread or rice, just omit the pasta adding stage and serve hot.

You can get the octopus from your fishmongers. They would have tenderised it for you, so ask first, just in case. You can get them to clean it for you too. If you can’t find it fresh, you can buy it frozen from the supermarket and they are usually cleaned before packing.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 1 octopus, cleaned.

For the sauce:octopus_stifado02

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 glass of good red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp of whole allspice
  • 1 tsp of ground pepper
  • a big handful of fresh dill, finely choppedoctopus_stifado03
  • 500g of short macaroni-like pasta (these are called kofto pasta, but anything with tubes do fine)


1. Rinse the cleaned octopus. You can cook it whole in the pot, or cut them into several pieces – cut the legs/tentacles off and the center part into 2.
2. Pre-cook the octopus. Add it into a pot, cover and just braise it on medium heat. The octopus will cook in its own juices. Depends on the size of the octopus, but I check how soft it is with a toothpick/small fork after 20 minutes. If it’s a medium-large sized octopus you may need 30 minutes. You will end up with that:-octopus_stifado04

3. Reserve the octopus juices. Sieve it to rid off any gunky bits. It’s very full of flavour, umami yummy, and  it’ll be used when we make the tomato sauce. Chop the octopus into 2cm sized pieces.octopus_stifado05
4. In a clean pot, on medium heat, add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add in the onion, sauté until translucent. Add in the garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes.
5. Add in the chopped octopus and stir for about 3 minutes.
6. Add in the chopped tomatoes, bay leaves and allspice. Mix it gently, then add in the octopus juices and red wine.
7. Simmer gently for about 30 minutes until it looks like that:-
8. Add in the pasta and the finely chopped dill, and stir. There should be enough liquid for the pasta, if not, add water to slightly cover the pasta, but not more. We don’t want soft and soggy pasta. Cook until the liquid has been absorbed by the pasta, gently on low heat, stirring well.
9. Serve in a big bowl, with a side of garnished feta cheese. (Remove the allspice and bay leaves before serving!)
You don’t need to add salt. The octopus is salty enough. But if you feel that you need more seasonings, do so – but I usually find that the saltiness from the octopus is good enough.

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