Polpo alla griglia (Grilled Baby Octopus)

Polpo alla griglia (serving)

One of the very best seafood for grilling has got to be the octopus. It has incredible flavor, it is a pleasantly chewy but not tough—when properly prepared—and it crisps up beautifully under the grill’s intense heat. There’s a good reason why it’s a favorite summertime dish all around the Mediterranean basin.

Unlike most other seafood, octopus needs some precooking before it is ready to grill, but otherwise it is as carefree as grilling gets. No worries like finny fish about it falling apart on the grill. Just let it sear on both sides and serve!

Ingredients

Serves 4-6 people

For the pre-cooking:

  • 6 baby octopi
  • 1 lemon, cut up
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley
  • A couple of cloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper

For the marinade:

  • Freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 lemons
  • A good pour of olive oil
  • A pinch of oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions

Step 1: Pre-cooking: Simmer the baby octopi with the other ingredients in enough water to cover for about 15 minutes. (If using mature octopus, double the pre-cooking time.) Let the octopi cool in their liquid.

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Step 2: Marinade: Drain and cut the octopi up into 3 or 4 pieces, leaving the tentacles intact. Place the octopus pieces into a bowl with the marinade ingredients. Mix well and let rest for 30 minutes or so.

Step 3: Grilling: Get your grill nice and hot, as hot as you can. Sear the octopus pieces until golden brown, about 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Brush the pieces with the marinade from time to time

Step 4: Finishing and plating: Take the octopus off the grill, and put them back in the bowl with the marinade. Mix once to coat all the pieces, then plate the octopus, pouring the remaining marinade over everything. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Notes

Octopus can be found at better fish mongers. I found a package of frozen baby octopus from Thailand in my local supermarket, and they were excellent. Baby octopus is a better choice for grilling, as it is quite tender and only requires a few minutes pre-cooking. But you can use ‘grown up’ octopus as well, just extend the pre-cooking.

Octopus are best grilled using a vegetable grill pan or grate so the small pieces don’t fall into the fire.

Octopus goes particularly well with potatoes, in particular patate al forno (Oven Roasted Potatoes), which I now realize I’ve never bothered to blog on. I’ll need to rectify that glaring omission right away!

Polpo alla griglia (plated) (1)

Polpo alla griglia (Grilled Baby Octopus)

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: Serves 4-6

Polpo alla griglia (Grilled Baby Octopus)

Ingredients

  • *For the pre-cooking:*
  • 6 baby octopi
  • 1 lemon, cut up
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley
  • A couple of cloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • *For the marinade:*
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 lemons
  • A good pour of olive oil
  • A pinch of oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions

  1. Pre-cooking: Simmer the baby octopi with the other ingredients in enough water to cover for about 15 minutes. (If using mature octopus, double the pre-cooking time.) Let the octopi cool in their liquid.
  2. Marinade: Drain and cut the octopi up into 3 or 4 pieces, leaving the tentacles intact. Place the octopus pieces into a bowl with the marinade ingredients. Mix well and let rest for 30 minutes or so.
  3. Grilling: Get your grill nice and hot, as hot as you can. Sear the octopus pieces until golden brown, about 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Brush the pieces with the marinade from time to time
  4. Finishing and plating: Take the octopus off the grill, and put them back in the bowl with the marinade. Mix once to coat all the pieces, then plate the octopus, pouring the remaining marinade over everything. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
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26 Responses to “Polpo alla griglia (Grilled Baby Octopus)”

  1. Welington
    18 January 2014 at 01:01 #

    We loved this!!! Never coked octups before, but they come out amazing. The best we have ever eat!! Thank you!!

  2. 22 June 2013 at 20:57 #

    Grilled baby octopus is one of our all time favorites, and yours looks delicious! We’ve been told that the key to tender octopi is, as you indicated, allowing them to cool in their cooking water. We’ve also heard that dropping a wine cork into the water while the octopi cook will ensure tenderness. Our chef friend tells us that this is a widely known practice, but has not ever been scientifically understood. We’ve bought into the wives tale and do add a cork when we cook octopus.

    • 23 June 2013 at 11:15 #

      I’ve never heard of the wine cork method, but now I’ll have to try it. Thanks for the tip!

  3. 21 June 2013 at 05:52 #

    And yes, please write the recipe for those potatoes…

  4. 21 June 2013 at 05:50 #

    That looks amazing!! Can’t tell you how glad I am leaving for the seashore today… will be on the lookout for grilled octopus.

  5. Susan
    20 June 2013 at 15:40 #

    On one of your last comments in the Note section: I must say that IMHO octopus and potatoes are a marriage made in heaven…the last time my partner and I went to Barcelona (one of my favorite cities) we found a fantastic tapas place where they served Pulpo a la Gallega to die for.
    Not the typical tourist restaurant (you have to look to find it – was recommended by friends and nearly all the people sitting at tables there spoke Spanish or Catalan). Which goes to show that great culinary associations either stem from the same tradition or end up meeting somewhere…have to taste the Italian version some day :-)

    • 23 June 2013 at 11:19 #

      I’ve always found comparing cuisines a fascinating subject, especially when I read about the cooking of other Mediterranean cuisines like Spanish or Greek. Similar ingredients but often put together in different ways. Will definitely try pulpo alla gallega soon!

  6. 17 June 2013 at 23:05 #

    i have to admit that i am not a fan of octupus, but i send my congratulations to you on a truly excellent and informative post. bravo! please excuse the informal typing style. i recently underwent shoulder surgery, and am typing one handed. capitalization was the first thing to go!

  7. 17 June 2013 at 21:30 #

    Oh my gosh Frank – I just made baby octopus for dinner tonight! Wish I would have seen your post first, I love how you plate it over potatoes. Will do that next time!
    LL

    • 20 June 2013 at 07:40 #

      It’s worth a try, Lori. Truly a match that was meant to be! Glad to hear you’re another octopus fan… ;=)

  8. 17 June 2013 at 15:12 #

    I love how you presented this!

  9. janaJa
    17 June 2013 at 13:01 #

    I just finished last piece, it was delicious!!!!!!!

  10. ciaochowlinda
    16 June 2013 at 22:59 #

    It seems like there are many opinions to cook octopus and yours looks terrific. I really prefer the larger, meatier ones, but they’re so expensive. I’m glad to know that those frozen baby ones from Thailand are good too.

    • 20 June 2013 at 07:41 #

      They really are. And they cook quickly, too. And they’re relatively cheap. What’s not to like?

  11. 16 June 2013 at 15:10 #

    un eccellente piatto, ricco di sapore ! Buona settimana Frank !

  12. 16 June 2013 at 15:07 #

    Oh my goodness, that looks amazing. I’d only had octopus once, when I was in Greece but I don’t remember what it was like. Since I love calamari, I think I would love this.

    • 20 June 2013 at 07:44 #

      The octopus is Greece is so good. And, yes, if you like calamari I bet you’d love octopus. Similar taste and texture, but it has even more depth of flavor. Thanks for stopping by!

  13. 16 June 2013 at 14:07 #

    I’ve seen the frozen baby octopus…I’ll have to buy some. I know my husband would really enjoy this dish.

  14. joel
    16 June 2013 at 10:05 #

    YUM!!!

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