In Apulia, on the heel of Italy's boot, the seas provide the incredible seafood and the locals transform it into masterpieces such as this one-tray mussel bake. It's so good it has been declared a national treasure of Italy.
- 100 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 24 mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
- 1-2 large French shallots, thinly sliced
- 500 g potatoes, peeled and cut into 5 mm-thick slices
- sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 350 g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 200 g arborio rice, well washed in cold water
- 40 g freshly grated pecorino
- small handful parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Lightly grease a large, deep baking dish with olive oil (I use a 26 cm long, 7 cm deep dish that is perfect).
2. Using a paring knife, open the mussels over a bowl, to collect the juices. Strain the juices through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.
3. Place half the sliced shallots on the bottom of the dish, then cover with a layer of potatoes. Season with salt and drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Top with half the cherry tomatoes. Place the opened mussels in one layer, then scatter the rice and remaining shallots over the top. Sprinkle with half the pecorino, the reserved mussel juices, more olive oil, salt and pepper and some chopped parsley. Add a top layer of potatoes, then the rest of the cherry tomatoes, a drizzle more oil, salt and pepper to taste, then the remaining parsley and pecorino. Pour enough water down the sides of the dish to reach to the same level as the top layer. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200°C and bake for another 30-35 minutes. At the very end turn on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the top is golden and crunchy. Serve at the table in the dish.
Silvia Colloca shares her Italian family secrets in the brand-new series, Cook like an Italian.