Spanish Paella, the epic rice dish from Spain, is one of my secret weapons for an EASY show stopper! Wonderfully versatile to adapt to your taste or what you have on hand. Do not fear getting the liquid to rice ratio exactly right, paella is actually quite forgiving!
This Spanish Paella is the main course for the Spanish Fiesta that I’m sharing this week.
If you’ve ever been too afraid to try Paella, I’m here to tell you – there is no reason to be scared! You do not need a Paella pan to make it – any large skillet will work. You don’t need to be 10000% precise with the liquid amount – just start with a conservative amount (which my recipe does) then top it up at the end if you want the rice softer.
You don’t have to even use any seafood at all – it could just be made with chicken. In fact, there are traditional Paellas in Spain that are made without seafood.
While some people take a very strict approach to making Paella, declaring the need to make it using the very best homemade fish broth and loads of expensive seafood, I prefer Rick Stein’s way. As he wrote in his Mediterranean Escapes cookbook, Paella, whether it be for a quick midweek meal or a large festive gathering, is meant to be relaxed and fun, not stressful with strict rules. So just chill out!! 😉
So today I’m sharing my Spanish Paella recipe, the foundations of which are true to the traditional Spanish Paella. Two key things that make this a traditional recipe are: a) the use of saffron threads which gives the rice a yellowy tone and a subtle flavour; and b) the use of just 1 fresh chopped tomato, not tons of canned tomato. (Mine is still quite red because of the chorizo)
Use my recipe as a base and add to it whatever you want – I’ve added a few variations in the notes to the recipe. 🙂
PS Recognise a certain famous Spanish Chef on the paella rice packet? Yup, it’s Migual Maestre and he’s providing the paella pan and rice in the Spanish Fiesta Prize Packs!!
HOW TO MAKE PAELLA
For foodie nerds – answering your burning questions about making Paella. 😉
- What rice to use for Paella? The best rice for paella is Bomba rice which is sometimes labelled as Calasparra Rice (a region in Spain where it is grown). Paella rice absorbs more water than normal rice. It is different to risotto rice because risotto (arborio) becomes creamy.
- Where to find Paella Rice? Bomba Calasparra Rice can be annoyingly difficult to find in Australia – it is not sold at Woolies and Coles (yet!). I purchase it from Harris Farms, Thomas Dux, delis and fruit & veg stores. For US – get it from Amazon, Walmart.
- What is the best substitute for Paella rice? Risotto rice is the best substitute. But if you are dying to make paella and you only have normal rice, refer to the notes in the recipe for directions for how to do this.
- Best paella pan – Paella pans are large and shallow so the rice spreads out thinly and cooks evenly without stirring. But you don’t need a paella pan to make paella! Just use a large skillet. The key is to ensure the rice is not stacked up more than about 2 cm / 3/4″ deep (excluding the liquid & seafood added later, but including onion etc mixed throughout rice), to ensure even cooking.
- Avoiding mushy rice – This part is EASY!!! Just start with the liquid ratios I’ve provided in the recipe which will yield a tender but firm rice which is how I like it. Once the liquid is absorbed, if the rice is not as soft as you like, just add a drizzle of hot tap water over the top of the rice (1/2 cup at a time), then leave to absorb for a few minutes until the rice is cooked to your taste. The strict rule is 3 cups of liquid to 1 cup of paella rice. I use a bit less because the seafood (especially mussels) in seafood paella releases plenty of liquid.
- Cook in broth, not water – Fact is, the better the broth, the better the paella. The best is a homemade seafood broth. The 2nd best is a store bought chicken broth dolled up by simmering it for a while with some seafood offcuts, or make seafood paella like I have (so the flavoured seafood juices drop into the rice). The 3rd best is store bought chicken broth. Store bought fish stock doesn’t make the cut in my world – sorry. 🙂 (Unless of course, you get a gourmet homemade one.)
- Don’t stir!! Unlike risotto, paella should not be creamy. So once you add the broth, do not stir. The best paellas have a golden crust on the bottom, called the soccarat, and it’s the best part of the paella. 🙂
- Add seafood partway through cooking – Paella takes 20 to 25 minutes to cook. So squidge the seafood in partway through cooking to avoid overcooking it. Even partially submerged, it is enough heat to cook. The only exception is squid – add it at the beginning so it braises slowly to make it tender.
This Spanish Paella is the main course for the 3 part Spanish Fiesta I’m sharing this week! On Monday I shared Easy Tapas Recipes (including make ahead instructions), today is the main course Spanish Paella and on Friday I have Churros coming.
So. Much. Food. Nothing beats a homemade feast for a gathering!!
Oooh! And of course, I wouldn’t leave you hanging with a Spanish Fiesta Menu without wine recommendations! For the main course, I chose this Mi Casa Rioja Tempranillo from Dan Murphy’s. It’s slightly richer than the Tempranillo I chose for the Easy Tapas spread so it’s more suited to the stronger flavours going on the paella.
At $22 a bottle, it’s fantastic value for a main course selection. And I’m loving the bright cheerful labels of these Spanish wines!!! Very on theme. 🙂
I’ve only got one more recipe left in this Spanish Fiesta – CHURROS coming on Friday! I’m going to be a bit bummed when this is finished, it’s been great fun and I hope it’s inspiring you to host your own Spanish Fiesta!
Hmmm. I think I should do another themed week soon. What cuisine should I do? Any requests?? What about FRENCH? Ooooh….. – Nagi x
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 7 oz / 200g chorizo , sliced (Note 1)
- 3 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 onion , diced (brown, white, yellow)
- 1 red capsicum / bell pepper , diced
- 1 large tomato , peeled and diced (leave juicy seeds in)
- 10 oz / 300g chicken thigh fillets , cut into 1.5" / 3.5cm pieces
- 200 g / 6 oz squid , cut into 7mm / 1/4" thick rings
- 1 1/2 cups / 270g paella rice ("Bomba" and/or "Calasparra" rice) (Note 2)
- 3 1/2 cups / 875ml chicken broth or homemade seafood broth (Note 3)
- 1 tsp saffron threads (or 1/2 tsp ground saffron or as a last resort, 1/2 tsp tumeric powder)
- 12- 16 medium / large prawns , whole (shell on)
- 12 large mussels
- Fresh parsley , chopped
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a 32 cm / 12" paella pan or large skillet over high heat. Add chorizo and cook until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon.
Heat remaining oil. Add garlic and onion, cook for 3 minutes or until translucent. Add capsicum and cook until softened. Add tomato and cook for 1 minute to soften.
Add chicken and squid. Cook until chicken is lightly browned all over but still raw inside.
Add rice and mix until the grains are coated in oil.
Add in most of the chorizo (reserve some for garnish).
Add chicken broth and saffron, stir once, then leave until it starts simmering. Turn the heat down slightly to medium high so it is simmering energetically but not rapidly for 3 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium. Do not stir!
Cook for another 7 minutes (no stirring!) - there should still be plenty of liquid but you can see rice on the surface (see photos below post). Shove the prawns into the rice, squidging it in so they are mostly immersed, then push the mussels in so they are partially immersed. The mussels will leech liquid.
Cook for 5 - 8 minutes or until prawns are opaque, mussels are open and most of the liquid has evaporated. Discard any that do not open.
Do a taste test to see if the rice is cooked - it should be firm but cooked. If it is too firm for your taste, no stress, just add a splash of hot water (not too much!) and keep cooking.
Scatter over reserve chorizo - residual heat will warm through.
Rest for 5 minutes before serving, scattered with plenty of parsley and wedges of lemon if desired!
1. Make sure you get RAW Chorizo, not the cured chorizo that is like salami that does not need to be cooked.
2. Bomba (aka Calasparra) paella rice is a rice specifically for paella which absorbs more liquid than normal rice. It is like risotto rice, but it holds its shape and doesn't go creamy. In Australia, you can get Calasparra Paella Rice at Harris Farms, Thomas Dux, fruit & veg stores and delis.
The liquid to rice ratio guide for cooking paella rice is 1 cup of rice to 2.5 cups of liquid (for tender but firm, my preference) or 3 cups for soft rice. I use slightly less than 2.5 cups per 1 cup rice in this recipe because seafood drops a lot of liquid.
If you DO NOT USE seafood, increase the liquid in this recipe to 3 3/4 cups / 925 ml for the 1 1/2 cups rice (because seafood leeches plenty of liquid).
If you are dying to make this and really can't find paella rice, adjust as follows:
* 2 cups white rice (long, short or medium) or risotto (arborio) rice, same liquid quantity
* Brown rice - not recommended, takes too long to cook
3. The better the stock, the better the paella. A homemade fish stock would be best. However, if you use some seafood, it drops juices while it cooks which adds a significant amount of flavour into store bought chicken broth and this is how I usually make it. You could go one step further and simmer the store bought chicken broth for a bit with seafood off cuts - that will add loads of flavour!
4. The prawns and mussels are added towards the end to avoid overcooking it. If you use mussels - and I really encourage you to - it leeches tons of liquid and adds loads of flavour into this! Prawns also add lovely flavour, especially cooking it in the shell.
The squid is added at the start because the long cook time yields a lovely tender squid (only 2 ways to cook squid - super fasts or braised!).
5. Variations: Make it a plain chicken paella - use 500g/1lb of chicken. Substitute with turkey, lamb, beef or rabbit (very Spanish!), or even leave out proteins and make it a vegetarian or just a seafood one!
It is quite common to see peas in Paella - just add a scattering of frozen or fresh peas a few minutes before it is ready. Other seafood that is fantastic in paella: Crab, other crustaceans, shell fish, scallops, fish (brown first, then add back towards the end).
6. Allow for 1/3 cup / 65g of rice per person, plus around 150g / 5 oz of proteins and seafood.
7. Complete your Spanish Feast with a Spanish Wine! I chose the Mi Casa Rioja Tempranillo from Dan Murphy's. Medium bodied, smooth, slightly rich, it goes really well with the strong flavours of this Paella. At $22 a bottle, it is fantastic value for a main course wine!
8. FANTASTIC to make on the BBQ! Stick the pan right on the grills.
9. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings. 137 of the 692 calories is attributable to the chorizo (loaded up with yummy red spicy oil, totally worth it, flavours the rice!)
Description of step by step photos, with cross references to corresponding steps in above recipe.
- Saute onion and capsicum (Step 2)
- Add rice and mix to coat in oil (Step 4)
- Add chicken broth – it will cover most of the rice (Step 6)
- After 3 minutes of rapid simmering on medium high + 7 minutes on medium, enough liquid should be absorbed so that the rice appears on the surface (Step 7)
- Squidge the prawns in first (mostly immersed), then stick the mussels in. They don’t need to be fully immersed (Step 7).
- After 5 – 8 minutes of cooking, the mussels should be open and prawns cooked. Finish off the paella per Steps 9 – 12.
HAVE YOU ENTERED THE GIVEAWAY???
Disclosure – This post and the Australia giveaway wine prizes are sponsored by Pinnacle Drinks, the geniuses who discovered and are spreading the love of Spanish wines throughout Australia! Wine and Spanish food lovers of the world such as myself thank you. <3
The paella pan and Paella rice included in the Australian prizes are donated by Maestre Family Food.
The Worldwide Prizes are being provided by me, Nagi Maehashi of RecipeTin Eats.
Life of Dozer – At Sydney’s beautiful Bilgola Beach, drooling over this Paella on my computer screen and waiting patiently for me to finish, hoping I’ll let him hit the surf. No such luck Dozer, no dogs allowed on this beach! No swim for you this morning. And no paella either! #HardLifeForDozer