• Marnie

Spanish Paella

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

Sometimes I like to celebrate my heritage with cooking. My grandfather was from Spain and though I unfortunately never got to meet him, I honor him with my food. I didn't have paella until I was an adult, but once I did, it became one of my absolute favorite meals. The saffron rice, and mix of veggies and meat and seafood is perfect. So many delectable flavors and it's really a fun one to make. My only suggestion is to use a paella pan. It gives paella that unique texture—the pan is thin and shallow, allowing for quick and even cooking. In a true Spanish paella, the cooking liquid is fully absorbed when the rice is al dente, making paella more like fried rice than creamy risotto. I've used the pan to cook other things, so it's a good purchase, in my opinion. But let's get back to paella - if you've never had it, now's your chance. I have a local restaurant that I used to go to for paella and tapas, but making it myself brings a warm sense of satisfaction and I know my grandfather (who was in the food industry) would approve and be proud.

So what makes up a paella? Arborio rice (and getting that socarrat, or crispy edges, is ideal), sofrito (a paella base of green or red peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and olive oil), a good stock (chicken or fish, depending on what you put in the paella), herbs and spices (saffron!), and your main ingredients - meat, seafood, veggies. Some paellas consist of seafood or meat/chicken only, while others have a mix of the two. I prefer the mix so you can get the best of both worlds. And if you want to get fancy, you can add squid ink to give the rice a beautiful black color and distinct flavor. There are so many variations, but here is how I typically make mine:


  • 3-4 TBS olive oil, or enough to coat the bottom of the pan

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you can use chicken breast, but it won't be as tender)

  • 12 oz. Linguica (Portuguese) sausage, or firm chorizo

  • kosher salt, to taste

  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot grigio)

  • 8 mussels (or clams, or both!), scrubbed

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock

  • 8 prawns or jumbo shrimp (or 12 large shrimp)

  • 1 lb green peas

  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced

  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 ripe tomatoes, grated, skin and seeds removed (or 1 cup canned diced tomatoes)

  • 2 cups Arborio or Bomba rice

  • 2 TSP smoked paprika

  • 1 pinch (about ¼ teaspoon) saffron threads, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water or dry white wine

  • 2 TBS flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

  • lemon slices or wedges


  1. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and season with a pinch of salt at least one hour before cooking.

  2. Bring 1 1/2 cups of water (or 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup dry white wine) to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the mussels and/or clams and lower the heat to medium high. Steam until they have opened, about 3-5 minutes. (Start checking after 3 minutes.)

  3. Transfer the opened clams and mussels to a bowl, and discard any that don't open.

  4. Combine the chicken stock and 4 cups of water and set aside.

  5. Coat your paella pan (if you don't have one, use a large 16-18" pan) with the olive oil. You may need to use two burners.

  6. Add the prawns/shrimp to the paella pan and cook until slightly pink and mostly cooked through, about 6-8 minutes, and set aside.

  7. Add the chicken and sausage to the pan and cook until browned on all sides, about 15 minutes.

  8. Make the sofrito: Add the peas and red and green bell peppers to the pan with the chicken, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

  9. Add the garlic and tomato and cook for about 5-10 minutes.

  10. Add the smoked paprika, then pour in the chicken broth/water mixture and stir.

  11. Add the saffron and continue stirring.

  12. Raise the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil.

  13. Simmer for 20 minutes, reducing the heat and rotating the pan if necessary.

  14. Taste the liquid and season with salt, if necessary.

  15. Return the mussels/clams, and prawns/shrimp to the pan.

  16. Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil.

  17. Add the rice and stir to distribute evenly. Don't stir anymore at this point. Cook for 10 minutes.

  18. Lower the heat and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 10 to 15 minutes. If the rice has not developed a crispy crust around the edges (socarrat), raise the heat and cook 1-2 minutes longer, but be careful not to burn the rice.

  19. Remove from heat and put foil or a clean towel over the paella and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

  20. Garnish with parsley and lemon slices/wedges and enjoy!

Did you make it? Share pics in the comments!

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