Polpi In Purgatorio – Octopuses In Purgatory

Pesca record di Polpi – Record catch of Octopus – Salvatore Migliari CC BY 3.0


  • 1 lb baby octopuses
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • chili pepper, red
  • 1 sprig parsley
  • salt and pepper

How to make the Polpi in Purgatorio:

30 minutes preparation + 2 hours cooking

Clean the octopus in salted water and rinse well. Saute in the finely chopped onion in a pan with oil and pepperoncini.

Then add the octopus, parsley, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Cover the pan with a lid and cook over low heat for 2 hours, stirring the octopus from time to time with a wooden spoon.

Add a little water and let evaporate. Serve warm.

Serves 4

Regional recipe from Abruzzo and Molise

Food history

The red peperoncino or spicy chili pepper is an essential ingredient in this dish: polpi in Purgatorio (or “octopus in purgatory”). Originally from America, chili peppers have been grown since 5,500 a.c. They were brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus, who described them in his diary as “spicier than our pepper.” The peperoncino had immediate success in the Old World, especially among the lower classes of the population, thanks to their strong flavor and low cost due to how easily they can be grown. However, because the wealthy did not appreciate their spicy flavor as much as others, the peperoncino eventually gained the nickname “the drug of the poor,” who used them in large quantities to give taste to bland foods.

Enrico Massetti was born in Milan, Italy.
Now he lives in Washington, DC, USA.
Still, he regularly visits his hometown
and enjoys going around all the places in his home country
especially those he can reach by public transportation.

Enrico loves writing guide books on travel in Italy
to help his friends that go to Italy to visit
and enjoy his old home country.
He also publishes books on the Argentine tango dance.

You can reach Enrico at enricomassetti@msn.com.