Make Ahead

Octopus and Potato Salad (Insalata di polpo e patate)

July 17, 2016
1 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Serves 4 as an entrée
Author Notes

Octopus and potato salad is a favorite dish all along the Italian coast. You can find it in practically every Tuscan and Ligurian port. Cleaning the octopus involves removing the eyes, beak, and innards, and rinsing under cold water—this is often already done when bought from a fishmonger or at a supermarket or if you have bought it frozen, but at my fresh-off-the-boat fisherman’s shop front, they are just as they were pulled out of the water.

Freezing the fresh octopus helps to tenderize it; alternatively, you can buy it already frozen and defrost it at home.

If you have a larger octopus, 45 to 60 minutes of cooking usually suffices. Baby octopus cooks in a much shorter time; 20 minutes can be plenty.

Once cooled and chopped into pieces, it makes a delicious salad with potato, thinly-sliced celery, a handful of parsley, and a dressing of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice (if you like, black olives go nicely here, too). Eat it room temperature or chilled—on a hot day, this is one of my very favorite meals. —Emiko

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is featured in the story, 11 Fragrant, Lemony Dishes That'll Transport You to Italy's Amalfi Coast, sponsored by Lagostina. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds (1 kg) octopus, cleaned
  • 2 medium-large potatoes, washed but unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry white wine
  • Handful of parsley leaves, chopped finely
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 stick of celery, thinly sliced (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. The day before planning to cook the octopus, put it in the freezer to freeze completely. The next day, let it defrost before cooking.
  2. Place the potatoes whole and unpeeled in a pot of cold water and bring to the boil. Cook until tender (a knife should slip through it easily), about 20 minutes. Drain and let cool before peeling and chopping into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside.
  3. Heat a heavy-bottomed pot or casserole dish over high heat. Add half the olive oil and brown the whole octopus in the pot, a few minutes. Pour over the white wine and cover. Turn flame down to lowest heat available and let simmer about 45 minutes (or until very tender—poke it with a fork to check and if not yet tender enough, leave it for a little longer) and let it cool in the pot until tepid. Remove, saving the liquid (as it is delicious), drain on paper towels, and when cool enough to handle, peel off the skin by gently rubbing with your fingers (baby octopus won't need this treatment) and chop into pieces about 2 inches (5 cm) long.
  4. Toss the octopus and potatoes together with the parsley, lemon juice, the rest of the olive oil, and the thinly sliced celery. Add a spoonful or more of the pan juices and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (it's usually already quite flavorful). Eat at room temperature or chilled.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • jpriddy
  • Emiko
  • liliana
  • Laura Morland
    Laura Morland

9 Reviews

liliana April 29, 2022
It is immoral to eat octopus. These are highly intelligent creatures with incredible sensitivity.
It is offensive that you promote eating octopus
Emiko April 29, 2022
Thank you for your comment. I wrote this recipe 6 years ago, it is a recipe that is much loved where I lived on the Tuscan coast in 2015, where octopus is abundant. However I too no longer can bring myself to eat octopus anymore and I now write about this too.
liliana April 30, 2022
Your reply is much appreciated. Thank you.
jpriddy July 11, 2021
Please, not octopus. It's like eating whale or porpoise. Stick with calamari.
Laura M. October 6, 2018
I also give this recipe a "thumbs up," although (per "cosmiccook") I poured a lot more than 1/2 cup of wine over the ... well, it turns out my fishmonger was out of octopus, and so I used squid instead. Also: one celery stalk was not sufficient. I used two, and next time I'll probably used three.

P.S. I did slice the celery *very* thin slices, and I also sliced the potatoes much more thinly than the photo shows. I was trying to replicate this dish that I ate at an Italian restaurant last week in Berkeley, and their potatoes were not cut into chunks, but thinly sliced.
cosmiccook September 25, 2018
how does a 1/2 cup of wine cover a 2pd octopus?
Emiko October 14, 2018
Hi, the wine is not meant to cover the octopus, it adds flavour and helps the octopus get its own juices going -- in fact, you could even leave out the wine completely and the octopus would simply cook in its own juices, and believe me, it lets out plenty. Try it and see!
Natalie R. August 17, 2016
I messed up, and it was a disaster. I chopped the octopus before simmering and couldn't skin it afterwards. While I personally didn't mind the texture, my guest was repulsed by the firm flesh and gelatinous skin. There was also some grit that I didn't expect, which both of us found off-putting. I'm surprised none of the recipes mentioned sand. Do cook the octopus whole. Or, better yet, find babies.

Regardless, the flavor of what I made was solid. I had to use sake instead of white wine, but it didn't clash with anything. I used red-skinned potatoes since I didn't know which kind would be better. My octopus was too wet to brown, so I would just simmer it without oiling the pan next time. I don't think sake changed the flavor too drastically from the original, so I give this recipe a thumbs-up, but please don't make my mistake and chop your octopus first. Put your instructions where you don't have to wash your octopus-covered hands every time you want to read them!
paris July 28, 2016
Good explanation. It looks easier than I thought. Thank you:)