Mussels are a food star in Italy’s Puglia region, where traditional Mediterranean cuisine is showcased. And residents of this southern Italian region like their mussels steamed, fried, stuffed, and stewed. They also like a classic mussel and potato casserole called tiella di cozze, made in an earthenware pan.
“This dish is built of many layers and is said to be descended from the Spanish paella,” author and TV personality Mary Ann Esposito writes in her book, Ciao Italia Slow and Easy (St. Martin’s Press, 2007), where this recipe is featured. (Click here to see the recipe.)
This particular tiella includes a variety of flavors and textures: mussels, of course, plus potatoes, cherry tomatoes, onion, pecorino cheese, and bread crumbs. Extra virgin olive oil, fresh parsley and white wine also play key roles.
“There are countless versions of this dish, but all must contain potatoes,” Exposito says. We’ve seen zucchini included, for example.
In this recipe, the mussels are steamed in white wine until the shells begin to open. Their liquid is strained and reserved. The top shell of each mussel is then removed.
Extra virgin olive oil is spread in a casserole dish. A layer of onions is placed over the oil, followed by tomatoes, sliced potatoes, and the mussels. The cheese, chopped parsley and bread crumbs are combined and sprinkled atop the mussels.
The reserved liquid is poured along the side of the dish and a slightly beaten egg is poured over the top of the casserole. The dish is baked in a 375 degree oven until the potatoes are browned, or about 45 minutes.
Next step: Take a bite, and transport yourself to Puglia.
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