• Michael Potts
  • Tiella

Tiella or teglia,” according to the Oxford Companion to Italian Food, “is a layered dish that can be made up of everything from fish and potatoes to combinations of rice, vegetables (spinach, zucchini, tomatoes), cheese, and shellfish, baked in the oven with enough liquid to prevent drying up, much fragrant local olive oil, plentiful herbs, and garlic. It was originally a way of cooking a fairly fast dish on getting back home from work in the fields, using everyday ingredients, simmered or baked in a terra-cotta pot.”

As with most dishes in Italy, most people think only their mothers cook it correctly. Viktorija Todorovska, the author of The Puglian Cookbook, and the subject of this week’s Omnivorous, makes a simple version—bread crumbs and wine, but no herbs.

“Other than the orecchiette and cavatelli, that’s probably the most controversial dish,” she told me. “Every Puglian cook you talk to has her own recipe. And from one village to the next they vary so much. The one in the book is from Bari, and in Bari they always use rice and they always use mussels. You go 45 minutes out of Bari and you mention tiella and they’re like. ‘There can be no rice. Do you hear me?’ They are convinced that the people in Bari do it the wrong way. And the people in Bari are convinced that the people in Lecce make it the wrong way.”

Either way, they like it to drink rosé with it, she says. Recipe after the jump.