Octopus with fresh fettucine, chilli and lemon

Photographer: Emma
Serves 3

Cooking and eating baby octopus does seem awfully cruel however it was trumps over tackling a great big mummy or daddy.  My imagination sometimes gets away on me but I was truly frightened that while tackling a big octopus it could miraculously come back to life, wrap its slimy tentacles around my neck and activate its suction cups.  Preparing babies for my pasta seemed a much safer option.

I didn’t know a great deal about octopus (or “octopuses” if they aren’t destined for your plate) so I carried out a little research (I use this term loosely as I used Wikipedia) after cooking octopus pasta.  I felt terrible when I learned that octopuses are more intelligent than any other species of invertebrate.  But then not so bad when I learned that they have a relatively short life-span.  I should have known as recently I watched a National Geographic documentary when an octopus was forced into an underwater maze – full of dead ends and narrow tubing, and left to free itself.  Not only was the flexibility of this being incredible but after mastering its escape it was put back in the maze only to be free once more in a matter of seconds.  I am not trying to put you off eating octopus or any other seafood for that matter, just encouraging you to take a minute to ponder the magnificent species on your plate.

This recipe goes against my usual mantra of “less is more” with seafood; I think octopus is a little different.  If you haven’t tried octopus before, the flavour is a little like squid, neither strong nor delicate and it does well to pick up the flavours it’s cooked along side.  It requires substantial cooking such as boiling or braising and works well with tomato based sauces, red wine or lemon, garlic and chilli like I have used.


400g fresh egg pasta

200g baby octopus
1L fish stock

1tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 anchovies, chopped (and optional but I insist they are amazing in this dish)
1-2 long, red chillis, finely chopped
2tbsp capers or fresh peppercorns

¼ cup white wine
2 lemons, juiced
Olive oil
Black pepper to season


1. Bring the fish stock to the boil and add the octopus; simmer for 1 hour or until the baby octopus are tender.
2. Once the octopus are tender, take them out of the stock and leave them while you prepare the pasta and sauce.
3. Bring a pot of water to the boil for the pasta.
4. Saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil until soft and translucent.
5. Add the anchovies, chilli and capers and gently fry until the anchovies break down.
6. Cook the pasta until al dente.
7. Turn the heat up on the garlic/onion mixture, once hot add ¼ cup white wine.
8. Use tongs to transfer the cooked pasta to the frying pan, add a little of the pasta water, a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon and black pepper to season.
9. Toss and then serve immediately.