Have you ever had a slice of tiella? In Italian, the word tiella means “pan,” but in Gaeta, a coastal city between Rome and Naples, it refers to a crisp pizza dough stuffed with seafood and salty olives. You know how they say that the Eskimos have like a thousand different words for snow? In Southern Italy, a similar paradigm applies to pizza.
Its origins, like most things Italian, are straightforward—an on-the-job lunch for mariners who ate slices of tiella with their hands. The traditional filling is octopus, tomatoes, and parsley, though you can also use baccalà (salt cod), calamari, or anchovies. A traditional alternative to seafood is a stuffing of escarole and cheese. No matter what the filling, a tiella must use a very good extra virgin olive oil as locals will tell you that it’s absolutely crucial for hot oil to run down your arms after the first bite.
Below is my own tiella filling, for which you can use your favorite pizza dough recipe. Even better, you can buy pizza dough at Addeo Bakers. In this case only, don't be turned off by the idea of store-bought pizza dough. This is no ordinary dough! This is pizza dough made by Larry and Tommy Addeo, two of the most experienced bread bakers in the United States. Larry advises leaving it in the fridge for awhile as the more fermentation continues, the more flavor you'll get in your pizza crust.
TIELLA WITH CALAMARI AND GAETA OLIVES
Prep time:15 minutes
Cook time:1 hour 5 minutes
Makes 8 servings
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing onto the crust
1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup gaeta olives, pitted (gaeta olives are fairly easy to find, but if not, any salty black olive will do) Find the olives at Teitel Brothers or Joe's Italian Deli.
2 pounds calamari (squid) cut into rings (I include the tentacles, but that’s me)
1 batch pizza dough, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil with the red pepper flakes and garlic until the garlic just starts to brown. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and olives and simmer for 20 minutes.While the sauce simmers, divide the pizza dough in half and roll out one piece into a 10-inch circle. Place on an oven-safe pan or skillet, letting the dough drape over the sides.Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.Remove the sauce from the heat and throw in all your calamari rings. They will instantly plump up. Quickly stir the filling together and pour evenly onto the dough round. Cool for 15 minutes.While the filling is cooling, roll out the second piece of pizza dough into an 8-inch round. Let your mind think of the patterns of the sea as you place it on top of the filling and pinch the top and bottom crusts together.
With a sharp knife, make 8-10 slits on the top of the tiella. Brush olive oil all over the top and the pinched crust, and sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake for 45 minutes and cool for one hour before serving.