Italian-style octopus carpaccio involves thin slices of cooked octopus with a bright citrus vinaigrette dressing that makes for an impressive dish that can be served as an appetiser or a light main. It is easier than you think to make this rather professional looking dish – all you need is an empty plastic bottle! Find out how to make Italian octopus carpaccio with our easy step-by-step recipe and get ready to dazzle your friends.
- 1 octopus, 1.5 kg, cleaned
- 1 onion, peeled
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 medium carrot
- 4 black peppercorns
- 6 juniper berries
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Fresh parsley, to garnish
Special gear: plastic bottle of roughly 8-10 cm radius
Carpaccio, usually prepared with thinly sliced raw meat and served with lemon and a creamy dressing, is said to have been created by Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice around the mid-1900s. Legend has it that Cipriani was inspired by the Venetian artist Vittorio Carpaccio and his use of red and yellow colours in his paintings – like the raw red of the meat and yellow of the sauce – and aptly named the dish after the artist.
From these beginnings, Cipriani’s carpaccio has spawned numerous variations using different ingredients. From fruit carpaccio, to raw fish carpaccio and the current octopus carpaccio, in Italy and around the world many chefs have frequently named dishes with thinly sliced ingredients after Cipriani’s famous dish.
The steps in this Italian style octopus carpaccio recipe are not as difficult as they may sound. Follow them to the key and you will be able to get wonderfully thin slices of cooked octopus, just like the experts. If you have a ham slicer, make use of it, otherwise a mandolin or a sharp knife will work also. According to the pros, the thickness of the final slices should be between 1-4 mm, and to achieve this it is important to make sure the octopus is compressed in the bottle as tightly as possible and left to cool in the fridge for at least 24 hours.
1. In a large pot, fill with enough water and toss in the onion, celery, carrot, peppercorns, juniper berries and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Holding the octopus by the head, dip the tentacles in the boiling water for a few seconds, remove and repeat to get the tentacles to curl up. 4-5 dips should work. Finally drop in the entire octopus and let simmer for about 70-90 minutes until tender and cooked.
2. Drain the octopus, and cut into 4-5 roughly even pieces.
3. Grab an empty plastic bottle, cut it in half leaving both the base and about 20cm of the bottle height intact. Using the tip of a sharp knife, punch 5-6 small holes in the base which will serve to drain excess liquid.
4. Place one octopus piece in the base of the bottle, and continue layering the pieces one after the other so that they are nice and snug.
5. With a flat object, like a lid of a jar or a hamburger press, push down to tightly compress the octopus pieces and to remove excess liquid.
6. Cut down the sides of the bottle so that it is in line with the height of the contents. Wrap the entire thing tightly with plastic and store in the fridge for at least 24 hours.
7. When ready to serve, unwrap and cut open the plastic. The octopus should have become one tight block so that you can cut thin slices out of it as if you were slicing ham. Arrange them fanned out on a large platter.
8. In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, with some salt and pepper. Serve on the side or drizzle over the slices. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.
Octopus is a very popular ingredient in the Italian cuisine, especially in the south where towns are surrounded by beautiful coastlines and fresh seafood is abundant. Whereas the octopus carpaccio here is considered a slightly refined dish, the cooking in Southern Italy tends to be much more rustic. Here you will find simple, grilled octopus served with some tomatoes, chopped and fried, or even a whole small cooked octopus in a sandwich – if you ever make your way to Bari, Puglia, make sure to try the panino con polpo (octopus sandwich) – it’s a local specialty!