While this recipe calls for Spanish octopus (where it is caught), its preparation using wine to tenderize the tentacles is an Italian specialty called drunken octopus. This typical Tuscan recipe has few but important ingredients. Choose a young drinkable wine such as an inexpensive chianti for cooking and a mineral-rich Sancerre with a crisp, citrusy complement to drink while eating the succulent octopus.

Our favorite pairing is the 90+ Cellars Sancerre Lot 126, a small-production, balanced and crisp Sancerre from the Loire Valley. Its delicate perfume of white flowers, hints of citrus, and flint give way to a silken texture and grapefruit-laced finish that creates a delightful liquid companion for the octopus. In this recipe, fresh or frozen octopus works. Frozen octopus has the benefit of already being cleaned, is easy to find, and the freezing process actually tenderizes the octopus. Magically-flavored texture bombs, crispy and briny capers, add dimension to this simple dish. A hint of sweet onion and parsley provide roundness and sharpness that culminates in a small plate that, with a stellar wine pairing, makes a meal as worthy of a romantic dinner for two as it is to serve as a course during a celebratory meal.  

cuisine Italian
difficulty Easy
season Year Round
serves 4 to 6


  • 2 pounds Spanish octopus (tentacles only), uncooked fresh or frozen (see kitchen notes)
  • 1 bottle red table wine
  • 3 ounces capers, drained
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 1/2 cup Vidalia onion, thin 1/2 inch long slices
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, for dressing
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Wash the octopus under running water to remove the gelatinous coating. 
  2. Add the octopus and the red wine to a small pot making certain the octopus is covered (add more wine or water to submerge the octopus). Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 1 to 2 hours (1 hour for frozen and 2 hours for fresh). The octopus is done when you are able to pierce the thickest part of the tentacle easily with a paring knife.
  3. In a small cast iron pan, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the drained capers and cook until crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes depending on the size of the capers (they are done when they look a bit dry an are a lighter golden green color). Drain the capers on a paper towel, sprinkle with sea salt while hot, and reserve.
  4. Remove the boiled octopus tentacles from the wine. Dry thoroughly. Place a 12" cast iron skillet on the stovetop and heat over high heat for 5 minutes. Add the tentacles and cook until charred, turning to ensure even charring, about 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Remove the octopus from the pan and let cool to room temperature. Slice into 1/2" pieces. Reserve.
  6. In a small bowl, mix a pinch of salt and the lemon juice together. Slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil to the juice, stirring to make an emulsion. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper (taste and adjust for acidity balance and saltiness).
  7. Add the octopus, the onion, and the parsley to a serving dish, and pour just enough of the dressing over the octopus to coat it. Toss to combine and evenly distribute the ingredients.
  8. Sprinkle the fried capers over the salad if serving immediately. Otherwise, refrigerate the octopus and, just before serving, sprinkle with the fried capers.