As a devoted fan of polenta and squid separately I am not sure how this one had escaped me for so many years until a recent fish cookery course aboard a trabocco! Some people believe polenta should just be kept as a winter warmer but I use it as a simple toolkit for banishing the blues no matter what the season. Each time I pull that tactilely satisfying bag of yellow out of the cupboard I think of the drying summer corn swayed gently by the ripening wind dance in my neighbour’s fields.
Octopus was unavailable from the local fishermen due to the weather so Maria our teacher substituted squid instead of the original octopus in her recipe below. We ate this as antipasti, next time I am going to try and up Maria’s amounts and have it as a supper dish.
Polpo al Sugo con Polenta – Octopus in Tomato Sauce with Polenta
1/4 of Octopus
125 ml of Passata
1 Red Onion sliced
1 Celery Stalk chopped
1/2 Carrot sliced
1 Bay leaf
65 ml of White Wine
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Clean & wash the octopus and if using a large fresh octopus beat it vigorously with a tenderizing mallet after you have just bought it. Pop it into a pot with about 2lt of water and half of the onion (sliced), the diced carrot, the chopped celery, the bay leaf, wine and a good pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat so that it’s on a gentle simmer. For the octopus meat to be tender and not fibrous it will require at least an hour’s cooking. After the octopus is cooked, remove it from the pan to cool and cut into chunky pieces.
In a saucepan fry the other half of onion in the oil, add the octopus pieces and finally the tomato sauce; simmer for about 10 min.
Ingredients for the Polenta
200 ml of water
A handful of polenta
Boil a kettle pour into a small saucepan, add salt and bring to the boil. Add the polenta slowly to avoid lumps forming and stir continuously for about 10 min. Pour the contents onto a tray or wooden chopping board and leave to cool until it becomes compact. Cut into 4 pieces and grill for a few moments and serve individually on a plate with the octopus and tomato sauce on top.
Preparation time: about 2 hours