Gragnano (paccheri pasta) with octopus ragu’

Aug 16, 2019
octupus ragu paccheri pasta

Pasta di Gragnano (paccheri pasta) al ragu’ di polpo

For me as a cook, one of my greatest pleasures is the challenge of trying to recreate a recipe I have experienced in a restaurant. It often takes months of trial and error to perfect before I will prepare it for family and friends, and then only when I am truly satisfied will I teach it in my Italian cooking classes or publish the method on my blog. This is one such recipe.

During a holiday in Italy a few years ago, Alf and I were invited to very special seafood lunch by friends of my sister who live in Bari, the capital of Puglia. We ate a spectacular seafood lunch in true Pugliese style in Barletta at “Ristorante il Vecchio Forno”. That day, for the first time, I had a seafood pasta dish served with cheese. This is something quite unusual elsewhere in Italy and is seen almost as a sin in Italian kitchens, but that day I was absolutely blown away by how fantastic the dish was. Here is my version of this ragu’, served with Italian Pecorino cheese. It is very important to use top quality Gragnano Paccheri pasta to make this dish as it is made using very traditional methods which is essential if you want an excellent result. We are lucky that this type of pasta is now readily available in Australia.

gragnano paccheri pasta

(Serves 6 as an Entree)

1.5 Kg of octopus, small to medium sized ones, (approximately two) – ask the fishmonger to clean the octopus for you
3 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 small chillies, finely chopped
100mL dry white wine
1 tbs of tomato paste diluted with 1/4 cup of warm water
600 to 700 mL of tomato passata
300g of Paccheri pasta from Gragnano (not ribbed, the smooth type) – the Gentile brand is highly recommended
60g of Italian Pecorino cheese (Romano or Sardinian are good options), freshly grated

Ask the fishmonger if the octopus has been frozen and if not freeze it for a few days beforehand to tenderize it, then defrost the octopus the night before you want to prepare the dish.

Wash and remove the hard skin from the octopus (this shouldn’t be too difficult, the skin is easy to separate from the flesh). Rinse it well and make sure it was properly cleaned by the fishmonger.

Finely chop the octopus into very small pieces.

Pour the olive oil into a heavy based saucepan, add the garlic and chilli and gently sauté for a few seconds until the garlic starts to turn a light gold colour.

When the pan is hot, add the chopped octopus and sauté on a lively flame until it starts to change colour. Remove any cooking juices from the pot using a ladle and reserve.

Add the wine and allow to evaporate, this will take 5-10 minutes, then add the diluted tomato paste and passata.

Bring the pot to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and partly cover with a lid. Cook on a slow heat for at least one to two hours, until the ragu’ develops a rich consistency. If ragu’ is becoming to dry, add cooking juices and/or boiling water to loosen the consistency for continued cooking or until the octopus becomes very soft and melts in the mouth.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to the instructions on the packet. Ensure you cook paccheri in a large pot, as they will absorb quite a lot of water and expand as they cook. (300g of pasta will need about 4-5Lt of water and 4-5tsp of coarse salt). Cook until “al dente”, drain (reserving a little pasta water) and transfer to the pan with the sauce.

Add 1-2 tbs of the pasta water and stir the pasta through the sauce until well coated. Serve immediately with a little freshly shaved Pecorino on top.

Serves 6 (Entree)



2 Responses

  1. Would love to try this, we've brought some Calamarata pasta back from Italy, do you think this would work with this dish or better to stay with Paccheri? Also looking at your pasta with wild mushroom recipe, I believe they're in season in the UK at the moment, very tempted to try this too! Ben
    • Sandra
      Yes you could definitely use the Calamarata with this sauce, it will work well. Yes do try the mushroom pasta as well with the choice of mushrooms you will have there at this time of year I would certainly give it a go. Use a non ribbed pasta if you have some. A smooth shape. Let me know how you go with both. I hope you had a great time in Italy. Thank you Sandra

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