Prepare this paella recipe for your next dinner party for a memorable meal that will wow your guests! My favorite Valencia-style paella feels like a feast when you set a decorative dish on the dinner table that is abounding with chicken, seafood, chorizo, rice, vegetables, herbs, and spices.
If you go to Spain, most Spaniards will point you in the direction of Valencia if you wish to have paella. Despite being a coastal region, the original Valencian recipe for paella consisted of saffron-flavored rice, beans, vegetables, chicken, rabbit and land snails. Today, the Valencian recipe is one of three types of paella: Valencian, seafood and mixed.
The standard recipe for paella requires saffron-spiced medium-grain rice, like bomba rice, poultry, and herbs. Seafood paella uses gifts from the sea such as clams, mussels, shrimp and lobster. This festive paella recipe is a mixed version, which adds in sausage, chicken, seafood, and peas but you can adapt it to make it your own.
Do not be intimidated by the number of ingredients! This is an all-in-one dish, so think of the list of ingredients as your main course and side dish that includes both rice and vegetables.
The one flavoring you cannot replace in paella is saffron. This is considered the most expensive spice in the world. Saffron is usually sold in small bottles. Inside the bottle, you will see fine threads. These threads are the stigma from the inside of the Crocus sativus flower. Because each flower has so few of these stigmas, one acre of land typically only yields up to 7 pounds of saffron, and to avoid damaging the saffron or the flowers, each thread must be hand-harvested, which further increases the price. The good news is that a little goes a long way to flavor your dish. For a large recipe of paella, you will only need to add a pinch of saffron threads to color the rice yellow and flavor it with the distinctive taste of saffron.
Choosing the Best Rice for a Paella Recipe
The traditional grain to use for paella is bomba because this type of rice maintains its texture while absorbing the ideal amount of liquid from the recipe. If this type is not readily available where you shop, there are alternatives. Any medium or short-grain rice will work, but you do not want to use long-grain rice. Long-grain rice remains too firm after cooking and doesn't absorb enough liquid. In a pinch, substitute Arborio rice, but your dish will not have the same texture as if you used bomba rice.
Preparing the Best Paella Recipe
Paella can be made on the stovetop or grill. Either method will give you delicious results. Cooking over an open fire on the grill, most closely replicates the original recipe, and you get a nice char on the exterior of the meat and a perfect socarrat, which is the toasted rice at the bottom of the pan.
Paella pans are a really wonderful pan for your kitchen if you plan to make this dish often. These specialty pans are shallow but deep enough to hold the rice and all the meats inside. The two handles on the sides of the pan make it easier to bring to the table after cooking. You can also use a large flat-bottom skillet. I have also used a large Dutch oven with fabulous results
What are you waiting for? If you've ever wanted to try your hand at making paella, now is the time. Make the recipe below to take your taste buds on a trip to Spain without leaving your home.
Dinner Party Paella Recipe
- Paella pan, Dutch oven, or wide shallow skillet
- 3 lb frying chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- ¼ cup virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 chorizo sausages. thickly sliced
- 1 sweet onion (such as Vidalia), diced
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves chopped reserve some for garnish
- 1 15-oz can whole tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
- 4 cups short-grain white rice
- 6 cups warm water
- Pinch saffron threads
- 1 lb jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 12 littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 1 lb firm white fish, cut into 2-inch chunks (optional)
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- Season chicken with paprika, oregano, salt, and pepper.
- In the paella pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tbsp oil and heat until shimmering. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring, 5 minutes or until browned all over. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook, turning, 7 minutes or until browned all over. Transfer chicken to plate and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and 1 tbsp oil; cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley; cook, stirring, 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, and more oil as necessary, and cook until the mixture caramelizes and the flavors meld.
- Add the rice and cook, stirring to coat the rice with the mixture. Stir in water and saffron. Reduce heat to simmering and cook, stirring infrequently, 10 minutes. Add chicken and chorizo, tucking them into the rice without stirring and cook 8 minutes. Add the shrimp and clams, tucking them into the rice without stirring and cook 5 minutes or until shrimp is just barely turning pink. Add the fish (if using) and the peas. Cook, gently shaking the pan, 3 minutes or until rice is al dente, shrimp is pink, fish is opaque and peas are heated through.
- Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Serve garnished with remaining parsley and lemon wedges.