A dish of Octopus Stew
A dish of Octopus Stew

You can find many different versions of Octopus Stew all around southern Europe, but there is a remarkable commonality in those dishes hailing from Greece, Malta, Spain, Italy and Portugal. The basic theme involves octopus stewed in a tomato base, generally with wine, along with herbs favored in the region. Olives, and sometimes capers, are frequent additions, and many incorporate potatoes. The following preparation is an amalgam of all of these…

The Ingredients for this Octopus Stew

For a light meal for two, or appetizers for four, you will need:

  • 450g Octopus tentacles;
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil;
  • ½ cup thinly sliced onion;
  • ½ cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 Tbsp minced Garlic;
  • 1 pinch each dried Rosemary and Thyme;
  • 1 cup Tomato Sauce;
  • ½ cup Red Wine;
  • 1 medium potato, parboiled and cut into chunks;
  • ½ cup Black Olives, pitted and halved.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.
Sections of blanched Octopus tentacles
Sections of blanched Octopus tentacles

NOTE: It is generally best to first tenderize your octopus flesh by first blanching the meat. (For instructions, see: How to Prepare Octopus). You can omit this step, if you like, but be sure to extend the cooking time as necessary and be prepared to add more liquid during the process.

The Method

Sautéing the onions, garlic, peppers and herbs for Octopus Stew
Sautéing the onions, garlic, peppers and herbs for Octopus Stew

Add the olive oil to a pan over moderate heat and, when it is beginning to shimmer, add the garlic, onion, and diced pepper, followed by the dried herbs. Sauté until the onion and pepper are soft.

Simmering the Octopus
Simmering the Octopus

Now add the tomato sauce… you can use a commercial variety if it is not too heavily seasoned… along with the wine. You can actually use a red or white wine here, but choose carefully for compatibility in tastes.  A low-tannin red is used here, but an off-dry white with just a touch of fennel would work nicely too.

Next, add the octopus and let everything simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes or so until the flesh is nicely tender. At this point, you can continue on immediately, or else let the stew cool until ready to finish. Doing this, especially letting it sit in the refrigerator overnight, allows the flavors to blend nicely and really improves the end result…

Finishing the Octopus Stew with potatoes and black olives
Finishing the Octopus Stew with potatoes and black olives

Finally, when you are ready, add the parboiled potato chunks along with the half-cup of black olives, and heat gently until everything reaches serving temperature. Season with salt and pepper as necessary and serve.


Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!