Like its name says, Tiella Barese is a dish typical of Bari, a city in the Apulia region in the extreme south of Italy. The term Tiella originally indicates a pot with a lid, but with time it became the name of a variety of dishes cooked in a baking crock pan. This dish is also simply known as Riso, Patate e Cozze – Rice, Potatoes and Mussels.
The taste of Tiella Barese is reminiscent of the Spanish domination in southern Italy: although it has fewer ingredients, Tiella is very similar to the paella, in that it combines rice and seafood and it’s cooked without stirring the rice in the pot (which would instead give you a risotto). For this reason, we can date the tiella barese back to the 16th century.
Made with poor ingredients, Tiella has always been very popular with the lower strata of the population. An oven wasn’t always a common home appliance, so on Sundays the women would prepare the dish in their home kitchen, and then the men would bake it in public firewood ovens. The practice of cooking food using public ovens was – and still is – widespread in central and southern Italy.
Serves: 4 | Preparation time: 20 mins | Cooking time: 50-60 mins
- Mussels, with their shell: 1 kg
- Potatoes, with yellow flesh: 800 g
- Carnaroli or Arborio or Roma rice: 350 g
- Cherry tomatoes: 200 g
- Pecorino, grated: 180 g
- White onions, medium-sized: 1
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO): 6 tbsp
- Parsley or thyme, fresh: about 1 sprig
- Salt and pepper: to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
Clean the mussels by rubbing the shell with a metal sponge, then put them in a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and let it fry in the pan until the shells open. Once all the shells are open, separate most of the mussels from their shell; keep aside a small quantity of shells to garnish the dish. Discard all the mussels that didn’t open.
Filter and set aside the liquid released by the mussels while cooking.
Cut the onion into thin slices, and chop the tomatoes in half; sauté them together in a pan, then put them in a large bowl.
Dice the potatoes in small cubes and add them to the bowl with onion and tomatoes, along with the mussels and their liquid, the Pecorino and the rice, still raw. Season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
Take a baking pan, preferably made of crock, and fill it with the mixture prepared in the bowl. Pour in water until it covers the content of the plate and exceeds it by two fingers; the water is needed to cook the rice and the potatoes.
Cover the mixture of ingredients with slices of potatoes and sprinkle some Pecorino and olive oil on top. Garnish with the empty mussels shells you kept on the side. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes to 180°C, then serve warm.
Tip: You can also use Parmigiano instead of Pecorino, and canned tomatoes instead of fresh cherry tomatoes.