Spanish Paella: Three Recipes

Paella Pan

Paella Pan

By Cat (Photo, right, from HotPaella (1))

I first had paella at a Christmas party in Portland, and loved it. Then I went shopping for a paella pan (as pictured, right).

Paella comes to us from Spain (with similar dish from Portugal), and is a type of seafood stew with rice, prepared in a special paellera (paella pan), and flavored with saffron and wine. It is a great dish to serve to company, with a wonderful presentation and aroma.

You can use just about any seafood ingredient you wish, including fish, shellfish, prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, etc.. A mixed grill including seafood and sausage (such as Chorizo) may also be used. A mix of warm-season veggies including zucchini and other summer squash, bell peppers may be included, in addition to the mandatory tomatoes.

Basic Paella

Wikipedia provides a very simple, traditional recipe for Valencia Paella (2). No amounts are given, nor are the meats and veggies specified. It includes beans, which I presume these are cooked dried beans or fresh/frozen green beans. With this recipe, you can certainly be creative!

  • Heat oil in paella pan (paellera);
  • Saute meat after seasoning with salt;
  • Add green vegetables and saute until soft;
  • Add garlic (optional), grated tomatoes, beans and saute;
  • Add paprika and saute;
  • Add water, saffron, snails and rosemary;
  • Boil to make a broth and allow it to reduce by half;
  • Add rice and simmer until rice is cooked;
  • Garnish with fresh rosemary [and lemon wedges].

Easy Paella

Spanish Chorizo

Spanish Chorizo

(Photo, left, from Wikimedia Commons)

This mixed-grill paella recipe is from AllRecipes (3). It’s an unusual version because the meats and shrimp are cooked separately from the rice. It also diverges from tradition by warming the rice in hot oil before adding the liquid.

Chorizo is a pork sausage from Spain that must be cooked before eating (it has not been cured). However, varieties that have been cured and smoked are also available. Chorizo gets its distinctive smokiness and deep red color from dried smoked red peppers (pimentón), which is also a separate ingredient in this recipe (smoked paprika).

The smoked paprika can be found in most international groceries, or via the internet, such as  a tin of Chiquilin brand Pimentón Ahumado (4) from Amazon. See Herbs and Spices, G – Z for more about paprika and smoked paprika.

When I make this recipe, I don’t use shrimp because I’m allergic to most shrimp. If I can get it, I use lobster tail or prawns instead.

The original serves 8; I’ve cut it down to serve 4.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Chicken marinade:
  • 1 lb chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ Tbsp sweet or hot pimentón (smoked paprika)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Rice mixture:
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • ¼ tsp unrefined sea salt
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup uncooked short grain Spanish rice (such as Bomba)
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pint homemade chicken or fish stock
  • Put it all together:
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • ½ pound chorizo sausage (see photo, above)
  • ½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (or lobster tail)
  • Equipment:
  • bowl or pan for brining then marinating chicken
  • paella pan
  • cast iron skillet
  • serving platter.


  1. Marinate chicken: Brine breasts, if using, for 30 – 60 minutes. Remove meat from breast/thigh bones; remove skin if desired.
  2. Mix together olive oil and seasonings. Add chicken pieces to coat. Cover and refrigerate to marinate about 2 hours.
  3. Cook rice: Meanwhile, peel and mince garlic; sprinkle with ¼ tsp salt, and crush with flat blade of a knife until it forms a wet paste.
  4. Chop parsley; grate the zest of lemons (reserve juice for another use) and add zest to parsley.
  5. Heat olive oil in paella pan over medium heat. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes and rice. Cook, stirring, to coat rice with oil, about 3 minutes.
  6. Stir in saffron, bay leaf, parsley, zest and stock. Bring to a boil, cover with lid or foil, and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer 20 minutes.
  7. Put it all together: While rice is cooking, chop onion and pepper. Remove casing from sausage and crumble the meat. Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail in-tact.
  8. Heat oil in separate skillet over medium heat. Stir in marinated chicken and onion; cook 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and crumbled sausage; cook 5 mines. Stir in shrimp and cook, turning the shrimp, until both sides are pink.
  9. Spread rice mixture onto a serving tray. Top with meat and seafood mixture. Garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.

Classic Paella 

Brining Mussels

Brining Mussels

(Photo, left, by Cat)

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking magazine (5), originally by Sarah Jay. This version does not include many veggies, other than tomatoes.

A short grain rice such as Spanish Bomba is ideal in this recipe because it absorbs 3-times its weight in water, and expands in width rather than length as other types of rice. Italian Arborio is another short grain rice that can be used, although it tends to create a creamy texture (such as for risotto). Or you could use a long grain rice such as basmati or jasmine. but neither the Italian nor the Asian rice varieties behave like the Spanish rice, and will not produce the wonderful caramelized rice at the bottom of the pan.

This recipe includes shrimp, scallops and mussels for the seafood; onion, garlic, and tomato for the veggies. And it uses the shells to enhance the flavor and mineral content of the broth. It is a fairly complex preparation. Because I am allergic to most shrimp, I use lobster or prawns, or skip it altogether. See also Live Clams & Mussels: Storage, Brining and Steaming for information on Mussels.

According to Wikipedia (6), “sofrito” is a sauce used as a base in Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American cooking. Preparations may vary, but it typically consists of aromatic ingredients cut into small pieces and sauteed or braised in cooking oil. In Spanish cuisine, sofrito consists of garlic, onion, paprika, peppers, and tomatoes cooked in olive oil.”

The smoked paprika can be found in most international groceries, or via the internet, such as  a tin of Chiquilin brand Pimentón Ahumado (4).

Serves 4.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Saffron broth
  • ¼ tsp crumbled saffron
  • 1 cup bottled clam juice (or fish stock)
  • Sofrito (sauce)
  • 1 small yellow onion (4 oz)
  • 1 – 2 ripe tomatoes (12 oz)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, divided
  • ¼ tsp sweet or hot pimentón (smoked paprika)
  • Unrefined sea salt
  • Shrimp-mussel broth
  • 12 large shrimp (31-40 per  pound), peeled with tail segment intact, and deveined (reserve the shells)
  • 1 lb mussels, rinsed well (reserve the shells)
  • Make the paella
  • 1 ¾ cups Spanish rice
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 12 sea scallops (dry-packed), side muscles removed
  • 1 lemon, cut in wedges
  • Equipment
  • small saucepan
  • box grater
  • paella pan
  • 4-quart saucepan or stock pot
  • 10″ cast iron skillet (if paella pan is not available)


  1. Saffron broth: toast saffron in saucepan over medium-low heat, until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Off the heat. Use back of spoon to crush saffron as finely as possible. Add clam juice/fish stock and bring to boil over high heat. Remove from heat and set aside to infuse.
  2. Sofrito (sauce): Halve and peel onion, then grate on largest holes of box grater to yield about ⅓ cup onion puree.
  3. Cut tomato in half cross-wise. Grate on box grater down to the skin to yield about 1 ¼ cups juicy tomato pulp (alternately – my preferred method – put the tomatoes through a food mill to separate the juice from the seeds and peel).
  4. Peel garlic. Mince 4 cloves and leave remaining cloves whole.
  5. Heat paella pan over medium-low heat. Add ¼ cup oil; when hot, add grated onion and cook in center of pan, stirring occasionally, until softens and darkens slightly, about t4 minutes. Add tomato pulp, minced and whole garlic, pimentón, and ¼ tsp salt.
  6. Cook gently, stirring frequently, until mixture is a deep, dark red and very thick, 30 – 40 minutes. Adjust heat as needed so that it doesn’t burn. If it starts to stick, deglaze by adding a little water and scraping the pan.
  7. Shrimp-mussel broth: While sofrito cooks, put shrimp shells in large saucepan over mdium-high heat and stir until they are dry and pink, 2 – 3 minutes. Add 5 cups filtered water and bring to a boil.
  8. Pick through mussels to find the smallest 12. Remove beards and reserve in fridge. Add remaining mussels to boiling water. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Strain broth into a 2-quart measure, discarding shells and mussels.
  9. Add saffron-clam broth and 1 ½ tsp salt to shrimp-mussel broth. Measure out 5 ¼ cups broth (for cooking the rice) and reserve the remainder.
  10. Make the paella: when sofrito is done, add the rice to the pan and cook briefly over medium heat, stirring constantly to combine with the sofrito, 1 – 2 minutes. Spread rice evenly in pan. Increase heat to high and slowly pour in the 5 ¼ cups broth, trying not disturb the rice in an even layer. From this point on, DO NOT STIR RICE. Bring to a boil and then adjust the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer, repositioning pan as needed so it bubbles all the way to the edges. Simmer vigorously until rice appears at the level of the broth, about 8 minutes.
  11. Arrange reserved mussels in pan evenly. Lower heat to a moderate simmer for 5 minutes, then arrange shrimp in pan, pushing them into the rice. Simmer until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender but still firm, about 5 minuts more. Total simmer time for rice about 18 minutes. If broth is evaporating too quickly, reduce heat slightly, cover loosely with sheets of foil, or add a little more broth or water, ¼ cup at a time as needed.
  12. If mussels or shrimp are undercooked when rice is done, cover loosely with foil for a few minutes to trap heat and finish cooking.
  13. Meanwhile, lightly season scallops with salt. Heat remaining 2 tsp oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallops and cook until nicely browned on both sides, and just cooked through, 2 – 3 minutes per side.
  14. When rice is done, arrange scallops on top of paella.
  15. Check for caramelied rice sticking to pan, by using a spoon to feel resistance(carameliation is desirable). If there is none, increase heat to medium high and carefully cook, moving pan around 1 – 2 minutes, until you can feel resistance with the spoon, but DO NOT BURN.
  16. Remove pan from heat, cover with clean dishtowel and rest for 5 – 10 minutes. Arrange lemon wedges around the perimeter of the pan, and serve.


  1. Hot Paella photo (—9-inch-22-cm__PS022.aspx
  2. Wikipedia recipe:
  3. All Recipes (
  4. Smoked Paprika from Amazon: Chiquilin brand Pimentón Ahumado (
  5. Fine Cooking recipe,
  6. Wikipedia on ‘spfrito’ (

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