Stewed Octopus in Tomato  

Polpo in Salsa - Purpu Muratu


Purpu muratu, stewed octopus, called also with other names, is a dish cooked in all countries facing the Mediterranean Sea and where polpo is fished. 

In Palermo, my family used a clay pot exclusively reserved to cook this dish; it was a large pot with a lid which made the pot air tight, so as to not allow the vapors to escape and let the polpo cook in his liquid. This pot was washed and stored with great diligence and used exclusively to cook stewed octopus or fish, or to make zuppa di pesce, fish soup. 

 Pignata The Clay Pot


Cook one pound of octopus per person as a meal or half pound as appetizer; to prepare a condiment for one pound of pasta, follow the enclosed recipe however reduce the polpo to 2 pounds and dice it into 1 inch cubes. 

The cooking time is very important to guaranty a soft and tender octopus: zia Bettina had strict rules; cook the polpo for 1 hour and 15 minutes, let it rest covered in the pot for 15 minutes, then check for salt and serve. 

Because when cooking the tentacles, part of their brownish pigment will disperse into the tomato sauce, the gravy of the stewed octopus comes out in a cloudy, almost black shade; however, the bread dunked in this murky brownish sauce is delicious, the polpo will melt in your mouth and will fill it with countless flavors.  

In the Focacceria Palermitana on Avenue U, we did not prepare or offer to our customers this dish, but at home we made the stewed octopus with small size polpo and served with boiled potatoes; more often we used the sauce as condiment for pasta. 

Serves 4  


·   4 lb. clean, raw octopus, cut into bite size pieces if big polpo 

·   3 cloves of garlic slightly smashed 

·   ¼ cup of olive oil 

·   1 tablespoon tomato paste, almost full 

·   28 oz peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped 

·   1 bay leaf 

·   chopped parsley (small bunch) 

·   Few hot pepper flakes (Optional) 

·   Salt and pepper to taste


  Raw Polpo




 At a medium heat, in a 4 quarts earthenware pot with a lid or in a heavy saucepan with a tight lid, warm up the oil with and the smashed garlic. When garlic starts to fry, increase the flame to high and add the tomato paste stirring constantly. Cook it for 1 minute and then add the peeled tomatoes well drained, half of the parsley and the bay leaf.
Keep stirring and cook for additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add polpo, hot peppers (optional) and black pepper. Mix it gently to blend thoroughly. Cover pot tightly using parchment paper or foil and then place the lid. Simmer at a low heat for 1 hour and 15 minutes and occasionally gently shake the pot. 

Remove from heat a let the stewed octopus rest covered in the pot for 15 minutes.
When ready, taste for salt, remove the bay leaf, pour the polpo in a serving dish and garnish with remaining parsley.Cut it into portions accordingly to the size and serve warm with fresh Italian bread.


Whole Octopus Stewed - Murato