Spicy baby octopus stew (polpi in purgatorio)

Translating to “octopus in purgatory”, this simple recipe is made up of just a handful of ingredients. Serve with toasted bread and a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Serves 4

Preparation 20min

Cooking 1hr 30min


By Silvia Colloca


  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced

  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

  • 1–2 tsp dried chilli flakes (use as much as you can handle!)

  • 1 kg baby octopus, cleaned (see Note)

  • 200 ml red wine

  • 200 ml water

  • salt flakes

  • roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish

  • crusty bread, to serve

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over medium heat, add the onion and cook for 1–2 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for for another 1–2 minutes. Add the octopus and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes, then pour in the wine and cook for 1–2 minutes or until the alcohol has evaporated. Add the water and bring to a simmer, then cover with a lid and cook over low heat for 1–½ hours or until the baby octopus is tender. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

Scatter with chopped parsley and serve hot with chunks of bread to mop up that glorious sauce.



• To clean baby octopus, take a small sharp knife and cut a slit in the head. Clean out the guts and ink sac and rinse under cold water to remove any grit. Gently push your thumbs through the middle part of the body to extract the beak.

Join Joanne and Frank on Facebook at

Everybody Loves Italian


Visit us on the web at dev.everybodylovesitalian.com

Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *