Pasta Shells with Baby Octopus (Conchiglioni ai moscardini)

Moscardini are baby octopus, and it is not often that I can get them fresh in Amsterdam. And so when I saw them, I grabbed them at the market (this was before we left to Italy, but I am typing this at breakfast on an Italian square in view of a duomo). To celebrate their freshness and the last days of the summer, I decided to dress some conchiglioni pasta with them in a ragù with fresh tomatoes. This pasta shape is perfect for a ‘chunky’ sauce like this, because the morsels of octopus get caught inside the shells.


For 2 servings

225 grams (.5 lb) baby octopus (frozen would also work)

225 grams (.5 lb) plum tomatoes (our tomatoes are quite watery, so I used 450 grams (1 lb))

1/2 stick of celery, small dice

1/2 carrot, small dice

1/4 onion, small dice

1 garlic clove, minced

60 ml (1/4 cup) dry white wine

2 Tbsp olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley


Bring a pot of water to a boil. You will use it later for the pasta, but first to skin the tomatoes. When the water boils, cut a cross in the bottom of each tomato, and scald the tomatoes in the hot water…

…until the skin splits, 10 to 30 seconds. Lift the tomatoes out of the water as soon as that happens, as you don’t want to cook them more than necessary at this point.

Plunge them in cold water to cool. Turn off the heat of the pot, and cover it to keep warm.

You can now easily remove the skin.

Cut the tomatoes in half cross-wise, and remove the seeds with your fingers.

Cut out the green part where the tomato used to be attached to the plant, and discard. Chop the tomato flesh.

Clean the baby octopus by removing and discarding the eyes and the insides of the head…

…and the sharp beak. Now chop the octopus into pieces (leave each tentacle whole).

To make the ragù, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. When the oil is hot, add the onion, carrot, and celery, and season with salt.

Stir over medium heat until the vegetables start to color, 5 to 10 minutes, then add the garlic and stir for another minute. Make sure that the garlic does not brown, as that would make it too strong.

Pat the chopped octopus dry with paper towels…

…and add it to the pan.

Stir the octopus for a minute, then add the white wine.

Bring to a boil…

…then add the tomatoes and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Stir and lower the heat. Allow to cook uncovered for about an hour.

Bring the pot of water that you used to skin the tomatoes back to a boil when the octopus has been simmering for about 45 minutes. Add salt and the pasta, and cook the pasta al dente according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, the tomatoes should have reduced.

If the sauce becomes too dry, add a bit of pasta cooking water, and stir to incorporate. Just before the pasta is ready, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Drain the pasta, and add it to the sauce, together with most of the parsley.

Stir well, making sure that most of the sauce gets ‘caught’ in the pasta shells.

Serve at once on preheated plates, garnished with the remaining parsley (and a drizzle of very good extra virgin olive oil, if you like).

Wine pairing

This is excellent with almost any dry Italian white, like Verdicchio, Fiano, Greco, Gavi, Vermentino…



The best dishes are those that use only a few ingredients. In this case: beets, mackerel, and balsamic vinegar (plus salt, pepper, and olive oil). It is a versatile dish: you could serve it lukewarm or at room temperature as a salad for lunch, or in a smaller portion as an appetizer, or as a secondo piatto after a nice plate of pasta (primo piatto). It also uses all of the beets: not only the beets themselves, but also the leaves and stems. They each contribute a different flavor and texture to the dish. And all three work very well with the mackerel, cooked sous-vide to give it a wonderful creamy texture. The balsamic ties it all together.


14 thoughts on “Pasta Shells with Baby Octopus (Conchiglioni ai moscardini)

  1. Now why on earth are we not blessed with a view of the Duomo – wherever ? And how can you talk of verdicchio if you are holding onto a long black 🙂 ? Anyway: classic and gorgeous and have a good time and more posts please if Kees does not mind . . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. PS it’s not a long black but a very short black (ristretto), without sugar. It is interesting how Italians always seem to insist to add milk (when you order coffee for breakfast, not later in the day!) and sugar.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A wonderful dish and a wonderful post. We can get frozen octopus here and it just went on my fishmonger list. Stefan, have a beautiful holiday in Italy and like Eha, I’d love some more post from your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Questa la so ;)! Di che duomo si tratta? In Puglia, non mancare di assaggiare il pasticciotto e di bere il caffè in ghiaccio con latte di mandorla (te lo avevo già detto?)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful dish. I am not sure we can get baby octopus here but I’ll keep my eye open for it. The sauce is beautiful, really taking advantage of summer tomatoes. love that you peeled and seeded them too. The shells are a lovely pasta in this dish.

    Liked by 1 person

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