Insalata di Purpu (Polpo): Octopus Salad


Sicilians are fond of seafood and no wonder being an island people.  The most important food source was seafood.  That has changed in recent years as meat became more available.  Many families have the custom of celebrating Christmas Eve with the “seven fishes” dinner.  A feast of seven or more seafood dishes is prepared to grace the holiday table.  I never counted the exact number of dishes that were prepared in our family but seafood was always on the menu.  The most important dish served is Baccalά, salt cod.  Other dishes typically served are squid, octopus, sardines, red mullet, whiting, and pasta dishes that include seafood.

I still honor this tradition with my family.  One of my favorite dishes to prepare is octopus salad.  It can be served as an appetizer or a side dish.

It may seem like a four-pound octopus is way too big but it will shrink to half its size upon placing it in boiling water.


Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes 4 servings.

1 cleaned octopus, about 4 pounds
Juice of 1 1/2to 2 lemons
1/2 cup celery, finely sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium covered stockpot, place enough water to cover the octopus.  Bring water to boil and add the octopus.  Reduce heat to low and simmer about 1 hour 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork at the thickest part, where the head meets the tentacles.   Drain and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Remove the head and discard.  Cut into ½ inch pieces and place in a medium bowl.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes before serving.

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