Octopus “pignata made” is the most popular traditional Salento recipe to prepare octopus, which in turn is one of the most loved and appreciated fish species in the province.
The octopus, also thanks to its conspicuous diffusion in the waters that bathe the Salento, has always been a tipycal food of its inhabitants. Already the Galateo wrote of men who in the cold winter nights, free of the moon, naked and equipped with large torches made up of dried ivy shoots and rudimentary harpoons, devoted themselves profitably to fishing for these cephalopods. As a reminder of this practice that has come down to our days with some small innovations, there is an ancient proverb that reads: “a cinnaru lu purpu allu panaru” or “in January the octopus on the table”.
Over the years the techniques for octopus fishing have been greatly refined and the results of excessive fishing effort caused by the current unselective and environmentally friendly systems are evident, so much so that it is no longer very common to find large octopuses.
The predilection of the Salento people for octopus “ pignata made” is well known and has been well immortalized by two ancient couplets: “la morte te lu purpu è lla pignata” and “la morte te lu purpu è lla cepuddha”, where death is naturally, for death gastronomic.
For this preparation, rather large octopuses are good, which must be beaten and rubbed on a rough surface (traditionally they are beaten and rubbed on the rocks), until they have lost their natural viscidity, becoming firm to the touch.
After treating the octopus in the manner described and sectioning it into not very minute pieces, it is placed in a terracotta pot with chopped tomatoes, plenty of onion (or spring onions) sliced very finely, parsley, oil, a little freshly ground black pepper and a finger of water.
The pot is exposed to cook over a very moderate flame and covered so that it cooks slowly, as far as possible, “with its own water”.
When the octopus that cooking has acquired the typical reddish color, will be easily pierced by the prongs of a fork, it will be cooked to the right point. It should be served hot.
A variant involves adding diced potatoes halfway through cooking.
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