Easy Paella Recipe
Make Delicious Paella at Home With This Easy Recipe
Paella is a classic Spanish rice dish, much revered and well-known particularly in Valencia where many consider it an identifying dish of the region.
There are as many different versions of paella as there are chefs in the world. Every chef familiar with paella has his or her own way of preparing it and preferred ingredients, although there are certain styles which are most widely known and recognized. The recipe that follows is the one my grandmother taught me when I was younger, and first interested in learning to cook. While it may contain some "short cuts" and simplicities versus classic Spanish Paella, it is a great and relatively easy-to-prepare dish for parties, holiday meals, "pot lucks" and just for a family weekend meal when you'd like to enjoy leftovers for several days to come. Preparing this dish immediately takes me back to my childhood, and it's one of my favorite meals to prepare regularly at home. I hope you enjoy it!
Paella as we know it today is a dish which originated in the Eastern Coastal region of Spain, known as Valencia. It is a rice-based dish which has three primary classic varieties:
1. Valencian paella: white rice, green vegetables, some form of meat, land snails, beans and seasoning
2. Seafood paella: uses seafood instead of meat and snails, no beans or green vegetables
3. Mixed paella: a combination of the above two styles to the chef’s taste, omitting and adding ingredients as desired
Two essential components of any kind of paella are olive oil and saffron, which gives the finished dish its characteristic golden color. The word “Paella” is Catalan, derived from the Old French word “paelle” meaning “pan” in English. The classic paella pan for cooking the dish is shallow and round, made of steel and with two handles. Rice was a staple of the Spanish diet since the 15th century, part of the Moorish influence in the region. Combinations of rice, fish and seasonings were often prepared for family gatherings and special events dating back to this time, and eventually through the centuries ingredients and tastes changed to lead to the versions of paella popular today.
By tradition in Valencia, paella is to be cooked over an open fire, only by men, using orange tree and pine branches and pine cones to infuse the fire with delicious aromatics. The paella would then be eaten straight from the pan. Of course it’s not always easy to follow such traditions today, nor is it necessary if you’d like to prepare a fine and modern version of paella in your home kitchen.
Paella Pans - Buy an authentic paella pan today!
Although I usually cook my paella in a casserole in the oven, one of these days I need to get a real paella pan. Perhaps for this summer, as paella can be wonderful when prepared on the grill!
Easy Paella: My Recipe
There are many ways to modify this recipe, based on the ingredients you have on-hand. For instance, a cut-up whole chicken will work well instead of chicken thighs, which I simply like because they are inexpensive and add a lot of flavor. If you have lovely fresh clams or mussels, do feel free to use them instead of canned clams - clean them well and add at the same cooking stage; they will open when cooked in the oven and release delicious fresh juice throughout the dish. You can also add other shellfish such as calamari, scungilli, scampi, etc depending on your market access. This recipe presents the simplest (and cheapest!) version I was used to as a child, and it comes out consistently delicious.
- 1/2 pound Chorizo or Italian sausage, sliced thickly on a bias
- 4-6 chicken thighs
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1.5 cups mixed bell peppers (yellow, red, green)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
- 1.5 cups fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped
- 1.5 cups uncooked white rice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron
- 4 cups water
- 1 pound uncooked shrimp, shelled, deveined and cleaned
- 6 ounces canned whole clams
- 10 ounces frozen peas
- Fresh ground pepper
- Olive oil
- White wine
- Cook sliced sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat until well-browned.
- Remove sausage from pan and set aside. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Season the chicken thighs with salt and black pepper, then brown them in the sausage drippings on both sides. Add olive oil as necessary to keep the chicken from sticking to the skillet and for additional flavor. Add a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan.
- Remove the chicken and set aside along with the browned sausage.
- To the skillet, add the onion, bell peppers and garlic. Cook until all are tender but not browning.Add in the uncooked rice, tomatoes, additional salt and saffron. Pour in the 4 cups of water and bring mixture to boiling. Return the cooked sausage to the skillet and mix well.
- Remove mixture from heat and turn it into a ready 4-quart casserole, Dutch oven or paella pan. Top mixture with the browned chicken parts, cover and bake for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, drain the canned clams and make sure shrimp are cleaned. Remove casserole briefly from oven to top with peas, clams and shrimp. Mix gently and recover, baking for an additional 15-20 minutes until chicken, rice and shellfish are done. If needed, add more water or white wine for moisture while cooking.
- Serve garnished with lemon slices and/or fresh chopped parsley, as desired.
Cooking Paella Step-by-Step - My photos of preparing this recipe
Quick Tip: A Simple Substitute for Saffron in a "Pinch" - Annatto seeds for flavor and color
Saffron is one of the world's most expensive and desired spices, well-known for the golden color it imparts as well as its rich flavor. Coming from the flowers of beautiful crocuses, only a small amount of saffron is required in most dishes which call of it as an ingredient - and it is generally considered a must for paella.
But what to do if you can't afford saffron or find yourself out of it at the last minute? My recommendation is to use Annatto seeds. Annatto is readily available in most Mexican and Latin American markets at VERY reasonable prices - perhaps only a dollar or two for a large package. A tablespoon of annatto seeds left in 1/4 cup of boiling water for 30 minutes can then be strained and the liquid used as an "emergency" saffron substitute (just cut down on the amount of the water added elsewhere in the recipe accordingly). The flavor is not exactly the same, but annatto has a wonderful nutty, spicy and sweet taste which I find complements paella quite well. Truthfully I've used this "fix-it" several times when I started to prepare my paella recipe and realized I was out of saffron, and could barely notice the difference in flavor.
Cookbooks All About Paella - Learn many more ways to prepare this authentic Spanish dish!
More Paella Recipes On-Line
Not satisfied with this recipe? Try some of these others to suit your taste.
- The Ultimate Paella Recipe
Food Network chef Tyler Florence shares his paella recipe.
- Easy Paella
A different "easy" version from AllRecipes.com.
- The easiest paella recipes
A variety of different paellas from Spain-Recipes.com. One for every taste here!
- How to Make Paella de Marisco
A more complex recipe from About.Com.
- Seafood Paella
Recipe from epicurious.
- Original Paella Recipe
Version from "Alicante-Spain".
- Quick Vegetarian Paella
A different twist on the recipe for vegetarians.
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Thanks for checking out this recipe lens. If you try my paella recipe, please let me know what you think - or feel free to share your own favorite paella recipe links here!
© 2012 Nicole Pellegrini