Polpo alla Luciana

I was having a serious craving for octopus (doesn’t everyone?!!) and looked online for a great recipe. What I found was Polpo alla Luciana, which suited me perfectly. Originating from Naples, it’s octopus in a garlic-y red sauce with olives and capers. Perfection.

The recipe I found is from the blog Vincenzo’s Plate, but I also checked out Frank’s blog Memorie di Angelina just for verification that this was indeed a traditional Italian recipe. The only difference is that Frank uses cherry tomatoes, and Vincenzo uses canned.

Having never cooked a whole octopus before, the whole prospect of creating this meal was very exciting. I’ve been told that frozen octopus is the way to go because the freezing tenderizes it. So that’s what I purchased online.

He thawed slowly in my refrigerator for 2 days, then I let him sit at room temperature for a couple of hours before beginning the head-removal operation. I was really fascinated by this beautiful creature.

I couldn’t help myself – I added cayenne pepper flakes to the Polpo alla Luciana. It was exquisite.

Polpo alla Luciana
Printable recipe below

28 ounces San Marzano tomatoes
Large raw octopus
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Pitted black olives, preferably Gaeta
2 tablespoons capers
Small bunch fresh parsley
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Loaf of bread

Start by crushing the peeled tomatoes by hand in a large bowl and leave them to the side. I used already crushed tomatoes from New Jersey – they’re a wonderful product.

Starting with the eyes of the octopus, cut around the head with a good pair of kitchen scissors. Discard the head unless you want it for a certain purpose. (Unfortunately I had no reason to keep the head.)

Grab the beak and cut it off as well.

Place a large pan on the stove over medium heat and add the crushed garlic along with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a splash of water.

Place the octopus tentacles in first, allowing them to spread out in the pan. Cover with a lid and leave to cook just for a few minutes. Remove the lid, add some water, and cook, covered, for another 3-5 minutes.

Flip the octopus using tongs and cook it for 5 more minutes.

Make sure the octopus releases all of its water. At this point, cut the tentacles into pieces a few inches long. Add the crushed tomatoes and cook on low heat for 40 minutes, uncovered. Add the olives, capers, and parsley.

Add some salt and pepper, and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Even after cooking for 40 minutes, the sauce was on the thin side to me so I added a tablespoon of tomato paste.

Slice up bread to serve with the octopus and thick, red sauce.

My octopus weighed 3.36 pounds before prepping. The sauce was the perfect ratio to the octopus.



By Published On: March 19th, 202438 Comments on Polpo alla Luciana

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!


  1. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen March 19, 2024 at 8:16 AM - Reply

    This looks beautiful Mimi, and congratulations on your prep!
    I remember when my husband proudly brought home a very large octopus from the fish market. I found the whole prep quite alarming, felt like I was dismembering a slimy alien! The whole experience was not fascinating for me, but in the end, we did have really tasty dinner (and leftovers as well).

    • Chef Mimi March 19, 2024 at 8:26 AM - Reply

      Oh!!! Well that was very nice of him!!! Octopus is so good.

      • Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen March 19, 2024 at 8:30 AM

        Especially if someone else prepares it!

      • Chef Mimi March 19, 2024 at 9:17 AM


  2. johnrieber March 19, 2024 at 8:20 AM - Reply

    I shared a link to this recipe and your post Mimi…looks delicious and on my list to make next week!

    • Chef Mimi March 19, 2024 at 8:27 AM - Reply

      Thanks so much for doing that! This recipe is perfect!

      • johnrieber March 19, 2024 at 8:27 AM

        I love stews and this one looks so good – and luckily, Citarella here in New York carries fresh Octopus!

      • Chef Mimi March 19, 2024 at 9:17 AM

        You’re very lucky!

  3. Chef Mimi March 19, 2024 at 8:25 AM - Reply

    It was really fun! They’re such fascinating creatures.

  4. Chef Mimi March 19, 2024 at 7:01 PM - Reply

    It was so good. I think just about anything in a red sauce end up being wonderful!

  5. Tandy | Lavender and Lime March 19, 2024 at 10:50 PM - Reply

    I love octopus and have had a similar dish in the south of Italy. Using canned tomatoes makes most sense to me. I’m definitely going to make a version of this soon.

    • Chef Mimi March 20, 2024 at 7:39 AM - Reply

      Yes, I really preferred this recipe over Frank’s. (Sorry Frank.) I personally don’t love tomato skins, so canned is preferable.

  6. Charlie DeSando March 20, 2024 at 6:25 AM - Reply

    That is amazing looking. It is a nice skill to cook octopus and not let it get rubbery. nicely done.

    • Chef Mimi March 20, 2024 at 7:39 AM - Reply

      You’re right. My friend told me that it’s either fast cooking, like over fire, or low and slow.

  7. spicedblog March 20, 2024 at 6:36 AM - Reply

    I had to laugh at your comment about everyone having a craving for octopus! I’ve never tried cooking octopus at home, but you make it look so easy…and that meal looks fantastic with the crusty bread for sopping everything up!

    • Chef Mimi March 20, 2024 at 7:40 AM - Reply

      It’s a delicious meal. I probably crave seafood even more because I can’t get it unless I order online! It’s a psychological thing. But I do love octopus.

  8. David Scott Allen March 20, 2024 at 1:47 PM - Reply

    I would also have added the red pepper — it seems like a great idea. Thanks for this recipe — like you, I always check Frank’s site for hist versions. In this case, I am sure both are wonderful!

    • Chef Mimi March 20, 2024 at 4:14 PM - Reply

      I’m sure they are, too. But I have a problem with tomato skins, so I preferred the recipe with the crushed tomatoes!

  9. sherry March 20, 2024 at 5:00 PM - Reply

    I grate fresh tomatoes so you end up with no skin! I just can’t bring myself to eat octopus tho, since I read how intelligent they are.

    • Chef Mimi March 20, 2024 at 6:00 PM - Reply

      Oh, Sherry, you’re missing out!!!

  10. Frank | Memorie di Angelina March 21, 2024 at 7:15 AM - Reply

    Looks delicious, Mimi! And thanks for the shout out. So glad to read you enjoyed the dish.

    • Chef Mimi March 21, 2024 at 8:17 AM - Reply

      It was so good. And I had it all to myself. Husband claims that octopus is rubbery, even though he’s never tasted it!!!

  11. Chef Mimi March 21, 2024 at 8:17 AM - Reply

    Ha! You’re funny. It’s way more interesting than tackling a leg of lamb! And very very good.

  12. cookingwithauntjuju.com March 23, 2024 at 3:11 PM - Reply

    Sorry, but I am not a fan of eating octopus! There is a 72 year sports tradition at home games of the Detroit Red Wings to throw dead octopus onto the ice rink. With its eight arms it symbolizes the number of playoff wins to win the Stanley Cup. The mascot of the Detroit Red Wings is Al the Octopus and that’s how I like to see these creatures of the deep :)

    • Chef Mimi March 23, 2024 at 4:42 PM - Reply

      Oh no! That’s a dreadful tradition.

  13. Jeff the Chef March 24, 2024 at 9:12 AM - Reply

    I will probably never cook an octopus. I’m afriad I have vegetarian tendencies that are somehow cancelled out by eating food that doesn’t actually look like the animal it came from. I might order something like this in a restaurant, though. So, go figure. In any case, what you’ve got here sounds delectable! I have a feeling, though, that you could make this work with some kind of faceless seafood. One of my food shortcomings, I’m afraid. :-(

    • Chef Mimi March 24, 2024 at 11:25 AM - Reply

      Hahahahahaha! That’s too funny!

  14. fatsochef March 24, 2024 at 10:29 AM - Reply

    I recently tried making octopus sous vide and it did not come out as soft as I would like. Yours look really amazing! You cooked it for a rather short time. What kind of texture did you get in the end? Really sorft? Or with a good bite still?

    • Chef Mimi March 24, 2024 at 11:26 AM - Reply

      A very slight bite. I was told a long time ago to do a quick cook, or a long and slow cook. This worked out perfectly.

      • fatsochef March 24, 2024 at 11:46 AM

        Yes. I was taught the same too! Octopus can be tricky. But soooo delicious when done well!!

      • Chef Mimi March 24, 2024 at 2:24 PM

        Very delicious! I’m surprised the sous vide didn’t work well.

  15. StefanGourmet March 24, 2024 at 4:53 PM - Reply

    Hi Mimi, I had not heard of this recipe before, but I’ve checked and it is indeed a classic recipe from Naples. Chilli (peperoncino) is actually an ingredient that’s included in all of the recipes in Italian I’ve checked. The tomatoes are preferably fresh, but of course it is better to use canned tomatoes if the fresh ones are watery. I’ll have to make this, too. If you empty the head, you can just slice it into strips and include it in the dish.

    • Chef Mimi March 24, 2024 at 6:03 PM - Reply

      Ohhh, good to know. I hated throwing it out, but I wasn’t prepared to do anything with it, like a broth. Do you mean that actual pickled pepperoncini peppers are used? I’ve been confused about this before. I can only find them pickled.

      • StefanGourmet March 25, 2024 at 5:13 AM

        No not pickled, dried or fresh. You can substitute with other spicy red peppers. You can use whole dried chillies and remove them after cooking, or chilli flakes.

      • Chef Mimi March 25, 2024 at 8:08 AM

        I’ll see if I can find seeds. Thanks!

  16. Debra March 24, 2024 at 6:02 PM - Reply

    I love how you just jump in there and learn how to prepare specialties that to me seem adventurous. I’m kind of a lightweight when it comes to octopus, but I can still admire a recipe, and I do!

  17. Raymund March 26, 2024 at 3:34 PM - Reply

    The combination of octopus in a garlic-infused red sauce with olives and capers sounds like a culinary masterpiece, bursting with Mediterranean flavors and aromas. Love it

    • Chef Mimi March 26, 2024 at 5:35 PM - Reply

      For me, I can honestly say that it was a perfect meal! Of course, you have to like octopus!

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