Looking to feed a gathering with little effort and a big flavor payoff?
You can easily fan the flames of community with this simple, easy, and delicious paella recipe.
You may think paella is unapproachable in the home kitchen and left best as a dish to be ordered out.
Let’s peel away this shroud of mystique around paella.
Where Paella Came From
With its roots in Valencia, Spain, farmers and field workers gave birth to this dish as they gathered and communally cooked their mid-day meal.
As fast food was still a century or two away, everyone contributed something to the dish, rice, chicken, rabbit, spices, green beans, etc. It was the original potluck lunch.
This communal meal was traditionally cooked over an open fire which imparted a delightfully smoky flavor. The cookware used was a shallow, large diameter, flat-bottomed round pan with two handles.
Eventually the dish itself came to be known by the name of the pan – paella.
Today, there are multiple versions of paella that includes all types of proteins, pork, chorizo, squid, and others. Our paella recipe features shrimp and mussels.
Which Rice to Use For Paella
Traditional paella rice is called bomba. It’s a short-grain rice that has an amazing ability to absorb water and swell two to three times its original size. The beauty of bomba in paella is that even after swelling the rice grain maintains its structure without becoming overly sticky or mushy.
But there are two challenges with using bomba rice in paella. It’s expensive and it’s hard to find. More than likely you will not find it in your local supermarket.
Our paella recipe substitutes arborio rice for bomba. It’s easily sourced, more reasonably priced than bomba, and it will hold its structure when cooked properly as in our paella recipe below.
Tips for Cooking Our Paella Recipe
1. Properly Size Your Pan
A paella pan is preferred. What is a paella pan? It’s a wide, shallow pan that provides the maximum area on the bottom of the pan for the rice to crisp as it cooks (more on this in tip #2). If you don’t have a paella pan, all is not lost. Use a large skillet to provide that extra space for the rice to lay in a shallow layer in the pan. See the notes in the recipe below for sizing.
2. Don’t Stir Your Rice – Embrace the Soccarat
The most coveted part of a perfectly cooked paella is the bottom layer of rice. Perfection is achieved when that bottom layer is crusty and crunchy with a deep brown color without being burned. This is called soccarat.
Resist the urge to stir your rice. It seems to go against the instinct of a cook to do so. Once you’ve distributed the rice into your skillet, let it be. As the cooking time progresses, the liquid in the pan will be absorbed by the rice or evaporated. As this happens the rice in contact with the bottom of the skillet will brown and crisp. Be sure to listen for the telltale crackling sound from the bottom of your skillet that means this process is in play. But stay close. That bottom layer of rice can go from perfectly browned to burnt in an instant.
3. Rest Your Paella
Cover and rest your paella once it has finished cooking. This will ensure that the rice has absorbed all traces of moisture left in the pan. No one likes a liquidy paella. Newspapers are the traditional covering in Spain. You can simply cover your pan with whatever lid you have available.
Now You Know! Go Cook Paella
Paella is a simple dish and easy enough on a weeknight.
Gather your community around the table today and give this our paella recipe a try.
Want to book a Live, Virtual Paella Cooking Class for your group? Click here for more details on the class.
Buy Chef Sandra’s Paella seasoning here.
Fan the flames of community with the vibrant flavors and colors of this classic seafood paella. Community never tasted so good.
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 1 mini sweet bell pepper, diced (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 Roma tomato
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 2 3/4 cups vegetable stock
- 4 oz shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails on
- 4 oz fresh mussels
- 2 tablespoons paella spice
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- 1 lemon, sliced into wedges
- fresh parsley, chopped
- Heat a 10-inch paella pan on medium-high heat.
- When the pan is hot add the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium.
- Add the onions, bell pepper, and tomato.
- Sauté until the onion begins to turn translucent and softens.
- Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds or so, until fragrant.
- Add the spice mixture and sauté an additional minute or so.
- Reduce the heat to low.
- Using the back of a wooden spoon or other utensil, evenly distribute the onion and spice mixture in the pan.
- Layer the rice evenly on top of the onion and spice mixture.
- Very gently and slowly add the broth to the pan, beginning around the edges, circling around the pan to the center. If your pan sizzles and violently bubbles, reduce the heat, wait a moment before continuing.
- Once the liquid has been added to the pan, don’t stir the rice.
- Increase the heat until the mixture begins to boil, then lower the heat once again to maintain a gentle simmer. Leave the rice to cook uncovered on low heat and undisturbed until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice plumps.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes. Once the timer has gone off, lay the shrimp on top of the rice and set the timer for another 10 minutes. The shrimp will cook from the steam on top of the rice. You may need to turn them once while they steam to ensure both sides are evenly cooked. The shrimp will pinken and curl as they cook.
- While the shrimp cooks:
- Rinse the mussels in a strainer.
- Discard any mussels with cracked shells or shells that are open.
- If any of the mussels present with a short brown string coming out of its shell, remove the string (known as the beard) by pulling it.
- Fill a 10-inch skillet with 1-inch of water.
- Place the mussels in the skillet and cover.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
- Once the shells have opened, the mussels are cooked.
- Remove the mussels from the liquid and set aside.
- Once your second 10-minute timer has gone off, check your rice. The rice should be plumped. Look between the grains of rice towards the bottom of the skillet to determine if there is any additional liquid remaining. If there is, set your timer for two minutes and continue to simmer. Repeat the 2-minute timer until there is no additional liquid remaining. You may hear some gentle cracking as the rice is beginning to crisp up on the bottom – this is a good thing.
- Turn off the heat once the liquid has been absorbed.
- Cover the rice and allow it to sit for another 10 minutes.
- Uncover the rice and lay the cooked mussels on top.
- Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley.
- This recipe is scaled for a 10-inch paella pan. If you don’t have a paella pan, you can use a larger skillet. It’s important to give the rice as much bottom surface area as possible to cook.
- Double the recipe for a 13-inch paella pan.
- Serving Size: 1.5 cups
- Calories: 139
- Sugar: 3.7 g
- Sodium: 530.6 mg
- Fat: 1 g
- Saturated Fat: 0.2 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 21.2 g
- Fiber: 1 g
- Protein: 10.9 g
- Cholesterol: 53.6 mg