I have a taste for mussels (cozze in Italian). Those clever little bivalve mollusks that carry the brine of the sea in each bite. I’m longing for them to spring open and for me to mop up the flavor of the cooking sauce with a loaf of crusty bread.
Italians have been cultivating mussels since about 1000 AD and in the port cities of Puglia they have been a major economic industry for centuries. Cozze ripene or stuffed mussels are a popular regional dish made with a breadcrumb cheese mixture cooked in a tomato sauce. Another regional favorite, Pugliese tiella, an oven-baked dish that combines mussels with rice and potatoes, takes its name from the earthenware pot (tiella, also known as a tegame,) in which they are cooked. In Liguria mussels are infused with white wine, extra virgin olive oil, parsley and onions and served over tagliatelle pasta. The mussels – wine – garlic- pasta combination can take on variety of permutations. The classic Italian American seafood stew cioppino shares its ingredients with several savory tomato based regional Italian variations. All are perfect for a warm, satisfying wintertime meal you can cozze up to.
*note to self – restaurant in Milan devoted to just mussels called La Cozzeria behind Porta Romana Metro station – must try