Cooking Series: Linguine with Baby Octopus

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Spring is finally here, officially anyways. I think it is? It’s been raining for the past four days straight here on the east coast so you wouldn’t know it to look outside. Nonetheless it hasn’t stopped me from making some favorite dishes that come back into season once the winter departs.

One of my favorite dishes is Linguine with Baby Octopus. Personally I think octopus gets a bad wrap. It can be heard in various dark culinary corners that it’s “too rubbery” or “it has no taste”. For those I direct people to the mastermind of Jiro and how his disciples carefully massage an octopus for hours to bring out the flavor and soften the tentacled beast.

Ok, so I don’t got that far. But I do believe octopus can be an awesome ingredient, especially to a pasta dish. Linguine with Baby octopus is an incredibly easy recipe to make and variations of it can be found in almost any pasta cookbook old and new.

I’ve taken my favorite aspects of preparing this dish from a few different recipes, combining the ingredients I feel work well and discarding others that don’t quite make the grade.

So, here we go:

First, and most importantly. You need to find fresh baby octopus that is preferably already cleaned and ‘de-beaked!’ (Yes octopus have little beaks inside and you do not want to chomp down on one in the middle of your dinner!).  The below recipe is for an average dinner that should easily feed 3-4 hungry people.

Ingredients:

1 lb fresh baby octopus (cleaned and de-beaked) (Usually can be found in any decent farmers market).

EVOO

6 scallions chopped into 1 inch pieces

About 3/4 cup of fresh mint roughly chopped

Course Black Pepper and Kosher Salt

3 Lemons

1 lb dry Linguine (Or any long pasta you prefer)

1 tablespoon of chili flakes

1 sprig fresh basil

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In a large metal bowl put in 1/3 cup EVOO, your scallions, mint, and the juice of 2 lemons (be sure to remove any pits that you might accidentally drop in). Season with salt and pepper. Incorporate well and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Once boiling add a dash of salt to the water and drop your pasta in cooking it until al dente.

While your pasta is cooking heat up a large pan with 1/3 cup EVOO on the stove. Drop in your baby octopus cooking them until they curl up and reduce down in size. Throw in a dash of salt and pepper for seasoning. Once your octopus are almost complete, put in your herbs from the metal bowl. Reduce heat to low, stirring every so often as to prevent anything that might stick to the bottom of the pan.

Your pasta should be finishing up around this point. Drain the pasta from the water, saving roughly a cup of pasta water in case you need to add later. Once drained pour your pasta into your sauce pan with the octopus and herbs. Incorporate thoroughly while adding your chili flakes. Your pasta should be coated nicely with the sauce but not drowning in it. Add more salt and pepper to for a bit more additional seasoning. Dress with a few fresh sprigs of basil for presentation.

The end result should be an array of tastes that combine the hint of lemon juice, mint, and subtle kick of the chili flakes. The octopus should be tender enough to have these ingredients latch on to all the flavors while the greens create a nice balance of texture.

The dish can be served hot or cold. Personally, I like to let the dish sit and incorporate its flavors for at least 15 minutes before serving.