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Folpetti (musky octopus) are one of the most iconic Venetian seafood dishes. It’s not uncommon to catch sight of them on the counter of some Venetian bacaro (tavern), alongside a series of other bite-sized delights. Traditionally, they are prepared in many different ways – boiled, battered and deep fried, grilled, pan-fried – and then enjoyed with a small goblet of wine (the so-called ombra) as a snack in between meals.

Musky octopus abounds all over the Adriatic, and thus is considered a humble crop, and one of the cheapest things to find on a Venetian fish counter. Prepping and cooking musky octopus might seem laborious, but once you get the gist of it, it’ll come very easy. That said, if you don’t like the thought of cleaning it yourself, you could ask your fishmonger to do it for you.

Below are the steps to prepare octopus in the most classic way, i.e. boiled. To this I add an extra step – a passage in a hot skillet – so that the folpetti become crisp on the edges. Cooked this way, it makes for a nice, fuss-free appetiser. You can also turn it into a one-dish meal by tossing it with some boiled potatoes and a splash of salsa verde.

To clean the baby octopus, simply remove eyes and beaks. Wash them thoroughly under cold running water and pat dry before using. You can buy tenderised baby octopus, or just freeze them and then thaw them (check that they haven't been frozen before) to make them more tender
Bring a pan of water with the peppercorns, bay leaves and garlic to the boil. Stir in the baby octopus (hold each by the sac for a second; dip the tentacles to make them curl before plunging the whole thing in water)
Cover and cook for 10–12 minutes, or until tender (the exact cooking time depends on the size of your octopus). Drain, discarding the aromatics, and set aside
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large frying pan. When hot, add the octopus and sauté for 2–3 minutes, just enough for their skin to blister ever so slightly, and for the ends to curl up and become crispy. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice and sprinkle with parsley to serve
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