Comfort food refined with nuances of the South.  The beautiful color of the purple octopus and pink shrimp matches the delicious component of each layer from the seafood, to red ragu, to golden polenta.  Once you have mastered a basic tomato ragu you can continue to tweak your version by adding a variety of meat or seafood.  Use a quality brand of canned stewed tomatoes, such as Cora Peeled Plum Tomatoes from Italy found at Joe’s.  I recommend whole tomatoes crushed by hand as they add rustic charm.  The contrast of a chunky ragu paired with the creaminess of polenta is so satisfying.  The flavors of parmesan and basil are woven throughout the entire recipe resulting in a dynamite dish that is worth the few extra steps.  This recipe is a wonderful way to introduce anchovies to your cooking, too. The brininess of the fish with the richness of the olive oil provides a unique saltiness.  The Oriz Boquerones from Joe’s have been hand-filleted and marinated in white vinegar and olive oil leaving you left with a perfect addition to this recipe.

Shrimp Stuffed Octopus & Cheesy Polenta

Shrimp Stuffed Octopus & Cheesy Polenta


  • 4 octopus (about 2 pounds) cleaned and tentacles separated
  • 1/2 lb shrimp
  • 4 anchovies
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • a few leaves of basil
  • 2 tbs grated parmesan
  • 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/2 of 1 red bell pepper finely diced
  • 3 tbsp roughly chopped basil
  • 3 tbs olive oil


  1. Begin by rinsing the octopus. Though it is already cleaned, you will need to snip out the hard piece found underneath the body which is the mouth of the octopus. You will find it in the area that looks to be an eye. Ensure no grit remains inside the cavity. Kitchen scissors are the best tool for this task. Cut each tentacle from the body. The very thin ends of each tentacle may be discarded.
  2. Dice the tentacles and raw shrimp into 1/4 inch pieces and place in a medium bowl. Finely chop anchovies and gently fold into the bowl. Add one beaten egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, basil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Mix until combined. Using your hands stuff each octopus with the mixture.
  3. In a large pan, drizzle three tablespoons of olive oil and heat to a medium-high heat. Sear each side of the stuffed octopus until browned then remove and set aside. In the same pan the octopus were removed from add garlic and red pepper to begin the ragu. Add hand crushed tomatoes. Stir in 1 cup of water, chopped basil and salt and pepper and simmer for ten minutes. Place octopus back into the pan cover pot and simmer for an additional half hour. The octopus will become tender and the sauce will thicken.
  4. While the sauce is simmering, prepare polenta by adding four cups of cold water to a separate pot over low heat with salt and olive oil. Whisk in polenta and bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Polenta will start to pull away from the pot about 15 minutes when fully cooked. Stir in parmesan cheese.
  5. Serve in shallow bowls. Layer a generous portion of creamy, cheesy polenta and top with a generous spoonful of ragu and a luxurious stuffed octopus. Sprinkle with more parmesan and fresh basil.
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This recipe comes from: Emily Frye – Food On The Monon