Braised Octopus with Penne

I started making this sauce back in 1989 when my restaurant Rockpool first opened. I used to serve it with large hand-cut noodles that we made at the restaurant. Now, at home, I usually serve it with penne. It is very simple, as it only requires you to slowly braise the octopus. What I love about this is that the octopus actually takes on quite a meaty taste. That may sound strange but it tastes great.


  • 400 g (14 oz) dried penne
  • 450 g (1 lb) baby octopus
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1 cm (½ inch) thick slices
  • 1 medium leek, white part only, cut into 1 cm (½ inch) thick slices
  • 1 medium brown onion, cut into 1 cm (½ inch) dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
  • sea salt
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) red wine vinegar
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) red wine
  • 1 teaspoon salted baby capers, well rinsed and drained
  • 1 large handful flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • freshly ground pepper


First clean the octopus. Cut the tentacles away from below the head, remove and discard the beak. Cut the tentacles in half. Cut the head just above the eyes, remove all the internal organs, then cut in half. Wash the octopus pieces thoroughly. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan and add the carrot, leek, onion, garlic, chilli flakes and a little sea salt, stirring for 5 minutes. Add the octopus and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the vinegar and wine and simmer slowly, uncovered, for 1 hour. Add the capers and parsley, fold through and check the seasoning. Meanwhile, cook the penne in plenty of boiling salted water for 8 minutes, or until al dente. Spoon the pasta into bowls and spoon the braised octopus over the top.


  • This is another classic dish that is fantastic on either soft polenta or spooned onto bruschetta as a starter. You could also use squid; braise it for the same amount of time, so it can take on the wine’s flavour and become tender.