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Polpi in Umido -- Italian Octopus Stewed in Wine and Tomatoes

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Octopus stewed with tomatoes
Hiroe Kida/Moment Open/Getty Images
This is a recipe for Southern Italian stewed octopus with white wine and tomatoes. It is a dish that originates in Puglia, near the heel of Italy's boot. Octopus requires long, slow simmering, so keep your temperature low and give yourself plenty of time. I like to do this with the baby octopus you find frozen in Asian markets, but you could use any octopus. Serve with crusty bread or a big pasta, like ziti or penne. This recipe serves 4 as an appetizer or a light main course.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes


  • 1 lb octopus, either small or large
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 4 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes or peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 T. honey or sugar
  • 2 T. chopped fresh dill
  • 4 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 t. chile flakes
  • 2 T. capers (optional)
  • Salt and pepper


Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil. Toss the octopus into the boiling water, return to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove. Discard water.

Cut the octopus into large pieces and saute in olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and saute for another minute or two.

Add the wine and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir well and let it cook down for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chile flakes and bring to a simmer.

Add about a teaspoon of salt and the honey or sugar. Mix well, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.

At 30 minutes, add the capers if you are using them, plus half the dill and half the parsley. Check the octopus -- sometimes small ones will be tender in just 30 minutes.{/p]

If they are still super-chewy, cover the pot again and simmer for up to another 45 minutes.

When you think you are about 10 minutes away from being done, uncover the pot and turn the heat up a little to cook down the sauce.

To serve, add the remaining dill and parsley and black pepper. Eat this with pasta or bread either hot or at room temperature.

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