Spaghetti al cartoccio (in a package)

puglia crestFrom Puglia. This dish looks fairly impressive, but is in fact quite easy to do. Spaghetti or linguine is mixed with seafood, and baked in the oven. The pasta absorbs the flavours from the seafood and the sauce is concentrated wonderfully. I had this dish at a restaurant near here “Zia Teresa” in Torre a Mare a while back. They served it using foil packets, but some people use greaseproof paper. Make one large package, or as I prerfer, one package per person. The recipe is really just a guide. The seafood is different from chef to chef and from day to day, depending on what is available. Include some kind of mollusc, like mussels or clams, something from the squid family, like calamari or octopus and something from the prawn family like prawns, scampi and shrimps. Some people also include a little fish, about 200 g, such as red mullet, sea bream or bass. Serves 4.

  • 350 g spaghetti
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and bruised
  • 1 kg of fresh tomatoes
  • 200 g unpeeled raw prawns/shrimps
  • 350 g clams (vongole veraci)
  • 500 g mussels
  • 200 g baby octopus or baby squid
  • A large sprig of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 2 chillis (optional, use the chillis which you are used to. It is usually made quite mild here)
  • Dry white wine

Wash the mussels and clams under cold running water and pull the beards off. Put them into a large pan along with a clove of garlic, the parsley and half a glass of wine. Put on a high heat until all the shellfish are open. Remove  most of them from the shells (you leave a few whole for garnish, if you like)  and reserve the cooking liquid, strained if need be.

Blanch the tomatoes for a few seconds in boiling water, and then peel and deseed them. Roughly chop.

Heat about 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pan with the remaining 2 cloves of garlic. When they have browned, remove them from the oil. Add the octopus or squid, and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes.



Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the cooking liquid from the shell-fish and the chopped chillis (leave them whole if you want to remove them at the end of cooking)  and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the unpeeled prawns and cook for a further 5 minutes. If you’d prefer to peel the prawns you can, but you’ll be losing quite a lot of flavour.

Cook the pasta about half the time recommended time on the packet. Drain and mix with the sauce.

Use a large square of kitchen foil, or 4 smaller ones for individual portions. Bring all 4 sides up and pinch together the corners, so you have a sort of foil “basket”. Fill each pouch with the pasta and fold over the top to close. Dont close them too tightly, leave some room. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°c for about 10 minutes.

Unwrap the package or packages at the table and have some finger bowls and napkins handy.

Slow Cooked Octopus “alla Luciana”

“Purpo” alla Luciana. From Campania. A nice way to cook a large octopus. Very simple, but delicious. The octopus ends up very tender and the liquid it produces makes a very tasty sauce. Serves 3-4

Octopus Luciana ingredients

  • 1 Octopus weighing about 1kg – cleaned and tenderised.
  • 1/2 glass olive oil
  • Parsley – chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic – chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Remove the eyes and beak from the octopus.
  2. Place the octopus in a (preferably) terracotta pot. The pot should be just larger than the octopus so it’s a reasonably tight fit.
  3. Add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt though.
  4. Cover the pot with aluminium foil or grease proof paper and tie as tightly as possible with kitchen string. Cover with a lid.
  5. Cook over a very low heat for two hours. Shake the pot from time to time to prevent sticking.
  6. Remove the foil, add the garlic and parsley, and cook for another few minutes.
  7. Serve hot or leave to cool in the cooking liquid and serve cold as an antipasto.
Octopus Luciana finished dish

Octopus Luciana finished dish

Octopus salad

puglia crestInsalata di polpi. From Puglia. This is one of my favourite antipasti.


Octopus salad ingredients

Octopus salad ingredients


  • 1 large Octopus (at least 500g), cleaned
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • White wine vinegar
  • 1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper




  1. Put the octopus in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring to the boil and cook over a medium heat until tender – about 25 minutes.
  3. Allow to partially cool in the cooking liquid.
  4. Cut into bite size pieces, dress with vinegar and garlic and allow to marinate for at least a couple of hours.
  5. When you are ready to serve, adjust the seasoning and dress with olive oil and parsley.
  6. Serve as an antipasto or main course
  7. Variation: Substitute lemon juice for the vinegar.



Octopus salad finished dish

Octopus salad finished dish