Polpo alla Luciana (Italian Octopus Stew Recipe)

Polpo alla Luciana is an Italian octopus stew recipe, slowly cooked with tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, chili peppers, capers, olives and parsley. All ingredients that give the dish an intense, unique and unmistakable flavor.

The recipe belongs to the Neapolitan culinary tradition, when in ancient times the fishermen of the Santa Lucia district, called “Luciani” (hence the name), cooked the freshly caught polipetti in seawater.

The soft texture of the octopus blends with the sauce, creating a harmony of flavors that makes this dish a true delight. The preparation of this dish is very easy. You can serve octopus Luciana-style at a dinner with friends or a family meal.

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The secret that makes the octopus so tender and the flavor of the sauce so intense and fragrant is the long cooking time over a low heat with the pot covered. In this way, the octopus remains moist and does not lose its juices and flavor.

Polpo alla Luciana is tender and succulent. A true delicacy for lovers of fish and Mediterranean flavors. You can also use Octopus alla Luciana sauce to flavor a fantastic pasta dish. In this way you will have made two dishes with one recipe!

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Polpo alla Luciana is suitable for any time of the year. In winter, it’s great hot and steaming, accompanied by slices of homemade bread. But in summer you can also serve octopus alla Luciana cold or warm, not only as a main course but also as an appetizer. Perhaps in the form of “Bruschetta alla Luciana” for a tasty al fresco summer lunch.

Octopus, with its tender flesh, lends itself to many preparations, either stewed, as in this case, or in salads, as in the classic recipe Octopus and Potato Salad. So let’s see how to prepare the very tasty Polpo alla Luciana according to the Neapolitan tradition!

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Ingredients

  • Prep Time: 15 Min
  • Cook Time: 1 H 10 Min
  • Servings: 4-6

  • ~1 Kg (2.2 Pounds) of octopus
  • 125 g (~1/2 cup) of extra virgin olive oil
  • 400 g (~1 3/4 cups) of tomato passata
  • 250 g (~1/2 pound) of cherry tomatoes
  • 150 g (1/3 pound) of pitted green and black olives
  • 80 g (~3 oz) fresh or desalted capers
  • 2 dried or fresh chilies
  • a bunch of fresh parsley
  • 250 ml (1 cup) of water
  • 2 garlic clove
  • fine salt to taste

Polpo alla Luciana Recipe: Instructions

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Step 1) – To prepare Polpo alla Luciana, first clean the octopus.

Turn it over and empty the head, remove the tooth in the middle of the tentacles and the eyes with a small knife or kitchen scissors. Rinse well under running water. Wash the suckers, which may contain sand, thoroughly. Set aside.

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Step 2) – Sauté the garlic cloves in the oil for 2 minutes in a saucepan. Leave the garlic peeled but whole so you can remove it before serving. Next, add the olives, capers and chilies. Finally, when the oil begins to sizzle, add the cherry tomatoes (washed and whole) and the tomato passata.

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Step 3) – Once the flavors are blended, add the water. Stir and cook for a few minutes.

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Step 4) – When the sauce begins to simmer, add the octopus. Turn it a few times and when it turns reddish, cover with the lid and let it simmer for 50-60 minutes.

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Step 5) – Check the hydration of the octopus (add water if necessary) and be sure to stir occasionally.

Towards the end of cooking, when the octopus is tender, taste and add salt if needed.

PLEASE NOTE: It is generally not necessary to add salt. The octopus is very tasty and the olives and capers add a lot of flavor. But it is also a matter of taste.

Finish cooking the last 15 minutes or so without a lid. When the sauce has reduced slightly, add the finely chopped parsley.

Serve Polpo alla Luciana in a soup plate, covered with its sauce. Serve with slices of crusty bread.

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Storage

If you have leftovers, you can store Polpo alla Luciana in an airtight container with its cooking sauce for up to two days.

You can also freeze Polpo alla Luciana, but only if you have used fresh ingredients.

If all you have left is the sauce, you can use it to make a great pasta dish with Luciana-style octopus sauce. It will be a hit!

Variations and Tips

You can serve the octopus whole if it is small, or in pieces if it is a very large octopus, as in my case. Polpo alla Luciana is great either as an appetizer, to open a seafood menu, or as a main dish served with slices of bread.

  • BRUSCHETTE: Cut octopus alla Luciana into small pieces and serve it with its sauce on slices of bread toasted in a pan or baked in the oven.
  • PASTA SAUCE: I also recommend using the sauce to dress pasta. Linguine or paccheri are perfect for this type of sauce.
  • POTATOES: A classic combination is octopus alla luciana with potatoes, which can be served boiled or baked. Often sliced potatoes are added to the sauce and cooked with the octopus.
  • SALT: Add salt only at the end of cooking and in moderation. Remember that the ingredients are very flavorful and you would risk making the dish too salty.
  • FROZEN OCTOPUS: You can use fresh or frozen octopus. Defrost it in the refrigerator before using it in the recipe.
  • TOMATOES: In the summer season, when tomatoes are ripe and flavorful, you can omit the tomato paste and use only fresh tomatoes or cherry tomatoes (about 600 g/1.3 lb). In this case, it is not necessary to add water because fresh tomatoes release a lot of water. The flavor of the sauce will be slightly milder.

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Polpo alla Luciana: Origins

Like all traditional Neapolitan dishes, the world famous “Polpo alla Luciana” has ancient origins.

Its history is linked to that of the Borgo di Santa Lucia, a picturesque district of Naples near the Castel dell’Ovo.

It is said that the fishermen of this suburb, called “Luciani” (from whom the name of the dish derives), used to cook freshly caught octopus in seawater when they returned home after a day’s work.

The fishing technique they used was called “of the amphora”: in the evening they would put small earthenware jars and white stones under the water and in the morning they would find them filled with polipetti, ready to be cooked.

The “Luciani” fishermen were known for their ability to cook the catch in a simple but extremely tasty way.

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