In the quaint coastal town of Gaeta, nestled along the Tyrrhenian Sea in southern Italy, there’s a beloved culinary tradition that has been handed down through generations – the Tiella di Gaeta. This dish, a mouthwatering combination of flavors and a testament to the town’s rich history, is a favorite among locals and a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by visitors.
The story of Tiella di Gaeta begins with the town itself. Gaeta has a history as rich and diverse as its cuisine. This coastal enclave was once an important Roman port, and the town’s cuisine bears the marks of its storied past. It was a place where cultures met, exchanged ideas, and, most importantly, shared recipes.
At the heart of the Tiella di Gaeta is the relationship between land and sea. It’s a marriage of flavors, and ingredients from both the fertile land and the bountiful sea, harmonizing in a single dish. Legend has it that the dish was created out of necessity in a small fishing village during a time when resources were limited.
One warm summer’s day, a resourceful cook in Gaeta, gazing at the day’s catch of freshly caught fish, plump tomatoes, and fragrant basil, was struck by a creative idea. He decided to combine the fruits of the sea with the bounty of the earth, and thus, the Tiella was born. The cook layered slices of tomatoes, fresh fish, and aromatic basil between two layers of seasoned rice and drizzled it all with fragrant olive oil.
The result was a dish that not only brought together the vibrant flavors of Gaeta but also captured the very essence of the town itself – a place where history meets the present, where land and sea embrace, and where simplicity shines.
Over the years, the Tiella di Gaeta has become a symbol of the town’s enduring culinary tradition. It’s a dish that speaks of the resourcefulness and creativity of its people, a reflection of their connection to the land and the sea that has sustained them for generations.
Today, as you walk through the charming streets of Gaeta, you can’t help but be drawn by the delightful scent of Tiella wafting through open windows and onto sun-kissed terraces. The Tiella di Gaeta is a testament to the town’s enduring spirit and a delicious invitation to savor a piece of its history, one bite at a time. So, when you sit down to enjoy a plate of this remarkable dish in Gaeta, you’re not just partaking in a meal; you’re tasting a piece of Gaeta’s soul, a story told through the flavors and traditions of a town that’s been nourishing the body and the soul for centuries.
Tiella di Gaeta
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Rinse the rice under cold water and set aside.
In a large pot, steam the mussels until they open. Remove the mussels from their shells and set aside. Strain and reserve the mussel broth.
In a greased baking dish, layer half of the potatoes on the bottom.
Top with half of the rice, followed by half of the sliced tomatoes, onions, and mussels. Sprinkle with half of the chopped parsley, salt, and pepper.
Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients.
Pour the reserved mussel broth over the layers.
Drizzle the top layer with olive oil and cover the dish with aluminum foil.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes to allow the top to become golden and crispy.
Let the Ttiella di Gaeta rest for a few minutes before serving.
Some interesting facts:
- Origin: Campania
- Tiella di Gaeta is a savory pie made with layers of rice, mussels, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and herbs. It takes its name from the special clay pot in which it is traditionally cooked.