In southern Italian cooking, the word tiella (tee-ELL-lah) is binary. It is the name of a rustic homestyle dish as well as its actual cooking vessel, a glazed terracotta casserole. Every locale boasts its own version, but includes potatoes and rice, or only potatoes. The focal point depends on what land or sea offers, supported by flavors of seasonal crops. Lamb, mussels, baccala, mushrooms, artichokes, onions, tomatoes, and zucchini are most popular.
Ingredients are few with minimal preparation. To prepare and cook in tiella means layering ingredients and cooking them in the oven for a couple of hours undisturbed. Longer cooking intensifies the slightly sweet-salty-spicy flavors as ingredients become fork-tender so you present tiella of layer-upon-layer of fragrant juicy morsels.
Hearty Lamb Tiella with Potatoes, Onions, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes is typical of La Murgia, the broad plateau in Apulia. Rich in farmland and grass steppes as well as significant historical importance, it is home of the Murgia National Park, the Rock Church, and Alberobello, the ancient town of i trulli.
The magic of this land continues through the cooking. Once you’ve tasted tiella, you won’t forget it. Tugging at the imagination as well as the tummy, the experience urges more, until you make it again, and again. With a little forethought of layering and design, transform tiella paesana, simple country presentation, into an enticing, colorful specialty you make at home or in your restaurant.
Original recipe, thoroughly tested. Extensive Chef’s Tips on ingredient selection and techniques. Easy step-by-step directions with several photos. Ingredient listing includes ounce/gram weights, volume, and inch/centimeter measurements, where applicable, making it easy to follow. Oven temperatures include F/C/Gas Mark for your convenience. Timing may vary with heat source. 4 servings. Cook time: 2 hours.