Linguine with baby octopus alla Luciana; Recipe from Naples
This baby octopus alla Luciana recipe from Naples is traditionally eaten with pasta or as a starter with crusty bread. But, it makes a fabulous main course too!
Linguine con polipetti alla Luciana
Linguine with baby octopus alla Luciana is a traditional Neapolitan seafood dish that has very ancient origins. It is apparently named after the fishermen of the historical seaside neighbourhood of Santa Lucia, Naples. These local fishermen, also called ‘luciani’, were well known for their octopus fishing skills! Apparently, they used to catch octopus using terracotta amphorae placed on the seabed!
The same fishermen cooked fresh ‘purpetielli’ (baby octopus in the local dialect) in a very simple way, flavouring them with tomatoes, garlic, peperoncino and, sometimes, with capers and black olives too. All ingredients you may recognize as being common to a number of other well-known Neapolitan pasta recipes such as spaghetti alla puttanesca.
All about the octopus for linguine alla Luciana
Pasta alla Luciana is usually made either with baby octopus or with musky octopus, a type of small octopus called moscardini in Italian. The best type of octopus to use in cooking is what Italians call ‘polipo verace’ (octopus vulgaris or common octopus). For linguine alla Luciana, baby common octopus are best but you can use an adult or larger one. I used musky octopus.
Musky octopus is another member of the octopus family, but it’s smaller than the common octopus and has only one row of suction cups on each of its eight tentacles. Here in Italy, it’s easy to find and pretty inexpensive. It’s also very tasty and a great choice for linguine alla Luciana.
Fresh or frozen octopus?
Like squid and cuttlefish, octopus doesn’t lose quality when frozen. In fact, many people think it’s more tender. So, frozen octopus would work well in this linguine alla Luciana recipe. Frozen octopus also has the advantage of being cleaned beforehand, plus fresh octopus spoils quickly. So, unless you live near the coast where octopus fishing takes place, you are probably better off using frozen anyway.
If you do use fresh octopus, get your fishmonger to clean it for you. Otherwise, you will need to open the head sac and wash out the guts. Then remove the beak and eyes.
Also, like squid (calamari) and cuttlefish, octopus need to be cooked very fast or slow. In this linguine with baby octopus recipe, the octopus are small but need to be cooked for about 45 minutes in total. It’s difficult to give an exact cooking time as much will depend on the size of your octopus. The general rule is check with the sharp end of a thin bladed knife. When the knife goes in easily, the octopus is done. Don’t cook further as it will become dry and tough!
For this baby octopus alla Luciana recipe, I used linguine that I brought back with me from my recent holiday in Puglia. This pasta was actually given to me by the chef at a restaurant we ate in at Lake Lesina in Puglia. My husband and I both commented on how good the pasta was and were rewarded with a packet to take home.
I wanted to know more about the producers of this pasta and after doing some online research I wrote to the company for more info. èViva pasta is a brand made by a company called ‘Agricola Piano’ in Puglia. The word ‘agricola’ in Italian is used to refer to farms that grow and produce foods. Agricola Piano grows wheat (both soft and hard), olives and vegetables. They produce flour, olive oil, vegetables preserved in olive oil, vegetable pâté and pasta made with their own durum wheat semolina flour.
What is special about èViva pasta is that firstly the durum wheat is all grown in Puglia according to the regulations of the ‘Voluntary Integrated Agriculture’ system. This is a system that combines the use of organic and conventional farming practices to reduce environmental impact and to produce high protein wheat, free of glyphosate and mycotoxins.
Durum wheat semolina with wheat germ.
Secondly, the semolina flour used to make the pasta dough contains wheat germ. Wheat germ is actually the most vitamin and mineral rich part of the wheat kernel. Unfortunately, to improve flour conservation, the wheat germ is usually removed when the grain is milled. However, Agricola Piano mills its grain without removing the wheat germ.
They then make their pasta by extruding the dough through bronze dies and slow drying it at low temperatures. The result is a pasta that is very flavourful , healthy, aromatic and more digestible. I only had the one packet of èViva pasta, which I used to make this linguine with baby octopus. But, I’m hoping to get the company to send me some more so that I can try their different shapes!
Making this linguine with baby octopus alla Luciana.
Apart from the octopus and the pasta this wonderful seafood recipe has only a few other ingredients. All you will need is some garlic, tomatoes, passata, capers, olives, white wine, peperoncino (if you want a little spice) and parsley. All the sauce ingredients are cooked in one pot. I used my Dutch oven but you can also use a deep skillet with a lid or a braising pan.
Traditionally, baby octopus alla Luciana is eaten either with spaghetti or linguine, or as a starter with crusty bread. However, this braised octopus also makes for a delicious main course. So, you can actually cook once and eat twice. Like many slow cooked stews, baby octopus alla Luciana tastes even better the next day!
Whichever way you serve this baby octopus alla Luciana, I’m sure you will love the unique flavour of this traditional Neapolitan seafood recipe.
If you do try this recipe, I’d love to hear what you think. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.
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Traditionally, Neapolitan baby octopus alla Luciana is eaten either with spaghetti or linguine, or as a starter with crusty bread. However, this braised octopus also makes for a delicious main course. So, you can actually cook once and eat twice!
- 400 g linguine or spaghetti (14oz) I used linguine from èViva pasta
- 500 g baby octopus (17-18 oz) 5-8 octopus depending on size. I used musky octopus.
- 400 g tomato passata (14oz)
- 250 g datterini or cherry tomatoes (9oz)
- 2 garlic cloves peeled
- 2 tbsp black olives
- 1 tbsp capers
- 1/2 glass white wine
- 1 tsp peperoncino flakes (red chili pepper) optional
- 1 handful fresh parsley chopped
- salt for pasta and to taste
- ground black pepper to taste
- 4-5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
Carefully wash the baby octopus under running water and dry them. Peel the garlic. Wash and chop the parsley. Rinse the capers well if they are salted.
Put the extra virgin olive oil into a Dutch oven or deep skillet add the peeled garlic cloves. Soften the cloves over a medium heat. Then add the baby octopus and cook them for 5 minutes. Turn them so they start to brown on each side.
Turn up the heat. Add the white wine and cook until the alcohol evaporates.
Add the black olives, capers and small tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes until tomatoes start to soften.
Add the passata, salt and pepper to taste and peperoncino flakes (if using). Mix everything together well and cook over a low-medium heat covered for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (until the octopus is soft).
Meanwhile, put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet. When the pasta is ready save a cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.
If your cooking pot isn’t big enough, transfer the baby octopus and sauce to a warmed large bowl. Mix in some of the pasta cooking water if your sauce seems dry and then add the drained pasta. Mix everything together well. Serve immediately sprinkled with chopped parsley.
If you use fresh octopus, get your fishmonger to clean them for you. Otherwise you will need to open the head sac and wash out the guts. Then remove the beak and eyes.
Instead of small tomatoes and passata you can also use 400-600 g canned peeled tomatoes.
If you are interested in buying and trying èViva pasta from Puglia you can contact the company via their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/eVivaLaPasta/ or website https://eng.agricolapiano.com/. Readers in the US can buy this pasta online from https://www.magnificofood.com