Origin: Alicante, Valencia
Arroz al horno is a typical baked rice dish from the community of Valencia, and in particular of the southern province of Alicante. The rice dish is baked in the oven, which as those of you who study Spanish in Spain will know, is 'horno' in Spanish, hence the name.
Arroz al horno is a typical home-style cooking recipe that was developed in the Marina Alta section of the city of Alicante. It is traditionally cooked in the brown clay or earthenware pots that tend to be used in Spanish cooking. It is also for this reason that in some parts of Valencia that the dish has become known as 'cassola' or 'cazuela' in Spanish, which means casserole dish. However, if you don't have any, then a standard casserole dish will work fine.
This dish is also known by the name 'arroz passejat', which means that the rice has gone for a stroll. This odd name comes from the traditional method of cooking the dish by having to take the rice to the local baker's oven in order to cook it as many homes did not have their own ovens. This tradition has mostly died out now but can still be seen in Agres today.
Traditional Baked Rice is made using Bomba rice, which is grown behind Denia, which is firmer and has a stronger texture. While this is a great rice to use for cooking this Spanish dish, you can still just use normal rice.
In fact, there are a number of varieties and methods of making this dish which include the dishes from Agres, Muro, Torrente and Onteniente among many others. Some of the dishes also include pieces of potato, ham and parsley into the recipe which changes the flavour slightly. There is also a split between those who think that the dish should be made with stock and those who think that it should be made with water. The number of dishes is so numerous that they hold an international Arroz al horno competition in Játiva to find out which is best - definitely something to see if you decide to visit Alicante. However no matter which way you decided to make your Spanish baked rice, it is guaranteed to be delicious!