Polpo in salsa di vino rosso 

Working with Italian Food Stylist Elisa Crestini, we create a series of images inspired by Caravaggio and classic still life drawings. I wanted to show you one of the shots and also include the recipe. This is the Octopus Stew with Red Wine Sauce. It was a great fun shot to produce and also it tasted fantastic. Do check out the recipe and enjoy.


Polpo in salsa di vino rosso 

by Elisa Crestani

1- 1 ½kg cleaned octopus, fresh or frozen

2tbsps extra virgin olive oil, some extra for drizzling

350g onions finely chopped

2 cloves of crushed garlic

250-300ml dry red wine (Barbera or Chianti)

250g ripe tomatoes, deseeded, finely chopped or 250g canned chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato purée

3 bay leaves

1 sprig of thyme or rosemary, finely chopped

1 tsp freshly black pepper and salt to taste

Fresh parsley or oregano for garnishing



Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Hold the octopus by its head and dip it into the water for three times; the effect will be a dramatic curling of the tentacles.


Place the octopus into an empty thick-bottomed heavy saucepan with the lid on, over a medium heat. Frequently shake the saucepan to prevent sticking. The octopus will quickly release liquid which it will then cook in for the next 30-40 minutes, until tender.


Separate the tentacles by cutting them at the joints and cut the center section (head) into 5cm lengths or chunks and put to one side.


Heat oil in a large pan on a low heat. Add the garlic and onions until they are soft and golden. At this stage add the wine, tomatoes, tomato purée, bay leaves, thyme and/or rosemary and a good dash of pepper. Stir well.


Next, put all the tentacles and chopped octopus into the pan, cover and let it simmer gently for approximately one hour. Do check it regularly during the hour, making sure the sauce does not dry out or stick at any time. If it gets close to reducing too much then turn the heat down slightly, and add a little more wine or water (depending on preference).


The sauce should have a nice thick consistency after an hour, and the octopus should be easily skewered if cooked fully. Once removed from the heat you should remove the bay leaves and can then add more seasoning to taste. For a final flourish, add freshly chopped parsley or oregano for garnish and a decadent drizzle olive oil.



Octopus Still Life on a table with ingredients for recipe


Stewed Octopus with Sourdough bread