Tag Archives: Capers

Insalata di Polpo con Patate (Octopus and Potato Salad)

16 Apr

Octopus and potato salad, a refreshing and light dish that reveals the exquisite taste of the octopus.  It is a Mediterranean delight to enjoy either as an appetizer or a main course, served either warm or cold and accompanied by a glass of dry white wine.  The simple dressing made with olive oil and lemon juice brings out the flavor of the octopus and the potatoes. This is a lovely way to eat octopus, a low-calorie and lean seafood, and is an ideal way to get protein, minerals (especially iron), vitamins and antioxidants, without taking in too much fat.  The name of octopus derives from Greek,  octo eight and pous piede, with eight feet. Octopus is delightful, but it can be tricky to cook it, with possible results ranging from soft and tender to tough and rubbery.  The cooking time is critical for the best results, and I would recommend tenderizing it with a meat hammer (see note) before cooking.

Preparation time: 1 h       Cooking time: 40 min.               Serving: 4

conchiglia con polpo

1 whole octopus, about 900 g (2 pounds)
1 carrot
1 celery rib
1 yellow onion
2 bay leaves
1 black pepper corn
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 garlic gloves, finely chopped
8 medium size potatoes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoon capers, washed and dry
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Wash and clean the octopus, removing the ink sack and the internal parts
2. Prepare a pot of a vegetable stock with plenty of water and the carrot, celery, onion bay leaves, black pepper corn and vinegar.  Bring it to boil, and dip in only the tentacles (holding the head) 4-5 times to curl and soften them.  Then drop the whole octopus into the water, cover and cook on low heat for approx. 40 minutes
3. Meanwhile cube the potatoes and cook until tender in salted water
4. When the octopus is done boiling, remove it from the water with tongs, chop off the head (there is not a lot of good meat in it) and cube the tentacles in small pieces 2, 5 cm (1 in)
5. In a small bowl prepare the dressing by combining olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, parsley and garlic
6. In a large bowl combine the octopus, the potatoes and the capers and season with the dressing.  Place it on a serving plate or in a shell.  You can either serve it warm or cold. You can, alternatively, also set the potatoes on a serving dish and place the octopus in the center, then add the dressing on top.

Note: When you buy the octopus, you can verify the freshness from its color; it should be bright and intense.  The octopus meat is soft and tender, but it can also rubbery depending on the preparation.  Traditionally, the octopus was beaten on the rocks to tenderize its meat.  If you don’t have a rocky coast just outside your kitchen door, you can tenderize it with a kitchen hammer for 10 min.  -Paola


Spaghetti alla Puttanesca (Spaghetti Puttanesca)

26 Feb

Spaghetti puttanesca is a tasty and piquant dish. It is one of the more popular recipes of Italian cuisine, originally from Lazio and Campania but now spread all over the world. This recipe, fast and simple, is prepared with fresh tomatoes, garlic, olives, anchovies, capers and red chili pepper. The moderate amount of anchovies gives a slight fishy taste to this recipe without overpowering the distinct flavor of the other ingredients. The term puttanesca comes from a legend in which the “brothels” served this appetizing and aphrodisiac dish to attract customers. In fact, you may already know of the stimulating, vasodilator and aphrodisiac properties of red chili pepper (Capsicum annum). In addition to these effects, this spice has other healthy benefits: it is an antibacterial and antifungal agent, it is rich in vitamins C and E, it helps digestion, and it is a strong antioxidant. This plant is indigenous to America and was used by the natives there in ancient times (5500 BC) in several dishes. In Europe, the red chili was brought back by Christopher Columbus and it is now one of the main spices of the Mediterranean cuisine. It is used especially in Italy’s southern regions to prepare various recipes, adding flavor and spiciness to many dishes. In fact, the name Capsicum, seems to come from the Greek word “kapto“, to bite, referring to one biting his tongue because the strong taste.

Preparation time: 20 minutes           Cooking time: 10 minutes            Servings: 4

Spaghetti Puttanesca

340 g (12 oz) spaghetti (artisanal pasta)
600 g (21 oz) ripe tomatoes, S. Marzano or Roma (peeled and diced)
75 ml (5 tbsp) olive oil (Extra Virgin)
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
110 g (¾ cup) black olives or green olives (pitted and sliced)
3 tablespoons Taggiasche olives
3 tablespoons capers (preserved in salt)
8 anchovy fillets (preserved in salt, coarsely chopped)
1-2 dried red chili pepper (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon parsley (finely chopped)

1. Blanche the tomatoes in boiling water, peel and cut into cubes
2. Rinse capers and anchovies under running water. Pat dry with paper. Cut anchovies coarsely
3. Cut black olives into slices
4. In a saucepan, bring 3 liters of salt water to boil
5. In a non-stick skillet on medium-low heat sautè with olive oil garlic, olives, capers and anchovies. Add the tomatoes and red chili pepper, and cook over medium heat for approx. 15 minutes. Add the parsley
6. In the meantime, while the sauce is cooking, boil the spaghetti for approx. 10 minutes (according to the instructions on the package). Drain the spaghetti and pour into the pan with the sauce, heating all together for a few seconds, then serve. If you prefer you can also add the sauce separately to individual plates of spaghetti.

Note: The traditional recipe calls for black olives from Gaeta but I prefer to replace them with green olives and Ligurian Taggiasche olives that have a sweet and delicate flavor. You can choose the type of olives that better suites your taste. The Neapolitan recipe omits anchovies. In addition you can substitute to regular olive oil with olive oil infused with hot chili pepper. This makes your dish even hotter!!! -Paola

Spaghetti al Pesce Spada e Capperi (Spaghetti with Swordfish and Capers)

1 Nov

Pasta is a great ingredient for preparing quick and delicious meals and is a real treat to make for someone special.  Spaghetti with sword fish, capers and cherry tomatoes is a tasty first course to enjoy before your non-pasta secondo (like we Italians eat it), or as a solitary main dish, fast and easy to prepare.  It is made of fresh and flavorful ingredients from Sicily, land of sea, sun and an extraordinary food tradition.  Since Italy is a country with thousands of miles of coast, it is understandable that fish is a big part of our diet.  This particular pasta sauce blends the delicate taste of sword fish with the intense flavor of the capers, either the edible flower buds or the fruit (cucunci in Italian, pronounced cu-CUN-chi) of a Mediterranean plant found in rocky terrain.  The best capers, the ones I love with my Martini (!) and like to use in my recipes, are the cucunci from the Pantelleria and Salina islands, which are preserved either in salt or vinegar.  They are used to season or garnish salads, pizza, pasta sauces, meat dishes and fish dishes. 


Preparation Time: about 20 min.        Cooking time: 7-8 min.           Servings: 4

340 g (12 oz) spaghetti (Faella Pasta)
450 g (1 pound) swordfish filet
450 g (1 pound) cherry tomatoes
90 g (½ cup) capers (sotto sale, preserved in salt)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoon olive oil (Extra Virgin)
80 ml (⅓ cup) dry white wine
2 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and set aside
  2. Remove the stem from the cucunci capers (the flower bud capers are stem free)
  3. Wash the capers under running water to remove the salt and set aside
  4. Wash and dry the filet with paper towel.  Remove skin and dice
  5. Drop the pasta in boiling water at this time (see below)
  6. In non-stick skillet on high heat sautè the garlic with olive oil.  Add the fish filet and cook for 3 min on high heat, add the wine
  7. Add the tomatoes and cook on medium heat for 5 min
  8. Add the capers, some salt and  fresh ground pepper to taste.

In a large pot of salted water, at the same time you are cooking the sauce, cook the spaghetti al dente (for about 7-8 min, read the cooking time on the package).  Drain and transfer the pasta to the skillet, mix gently.  Before serving garnish with the parsley.

Note: If you cannot find capers from Pantelleria, make sure to choose the biggest ones you can find, as they taste better and make a better visual impact in the sauce.  You can also substitute the spaghetti with linguine, a flat, spaghetti-like pasta from Liguria, which is often served with pesto or with seafood. -Paola

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