Fricassee of Baby Octopus

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    as a first course

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

For this lovely first course or brunch dish called moscardini alla genovese, the baby octopus is cooked in advance, then left to cool in the cooking pot, tightly covered, so that all the juices are reabsorbed into the flesh.

For best flavor, baby octopus needs a little “chew,” so be careful not to overcook it.


  • 2 pounds (15 to 24 pieces) cleaned frozen baby octopus, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled and softened in lightly sugared warm water, drained, and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup dry white or red wine
  • cup fresh tomato puree
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter or 4 pureed walnuts
  • Salt
  • 6 thin slices of Italian-style bread, toasted and rubbed with garlic


  1. Rinse and drain the octopus. To clean the baby octopus, pull out the tentacles and reserve. Cut away the eyes, entrails, and hard protruding parts. Rub off the membranes and wash inside the pouches.
  2. Set a 10 - inch cazuela on a heat diffuser or a heavy-bottomed straight-sided skillet over low heat. Add the olive oil and then the red onion, garlic, rosemary, 3 tablespoons of the parsley, and the mushrooms. Stew until the onion is soft and golden, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the octopus, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring, until the moisture evaporates. Add the wine, tomato puree, and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Lay a sheet of crumpled wet parchment directly over the octopus, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. (Larger octopus will take longer to cook; simmer for as long as 1 hour or more.) Turn off the heat and let the dish stand, covered, for 1 hour, if you make the dish a day in advance, let cool, then cover and refrigerate. Reheat, partially covered, before proceeding to Step 4.
  4. Add a few tablespoons water to the pan. Reheat gently to boiling. If desired, add the butter or pureed walnuts and swirl to create a creamy sauce. Taste for salt. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve at once over hot garlic toasts.