Try Our Easy Weeknight Paella Recipe
No special pan, hard-to-find ingredients, or suitcase required. In about an hour, this vibrant, richly flavored seafood and sausage paella will transport you to sunny Spain.
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Do you love paella, the Spanish saffron rice dish, as much as I do? Though I made it to Barcelona back in college, that was long before I knew about paella. Since then I’ve had the good fortune to cook the country’s iconic recipe alongside Spanish friends — often using a party-size paella pan like the one my husband and I received as a wedding gift. Our get-togethers sure are memorable, but they’re not something I can pull off on a weeknight.
The good news is you don’t have to wait for a special occasion and you don’t need a special pan to make the beloved Spanish rice dish. My easy paella recipe uses a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop — instead of the traditional outdoor fire — with ingredients I pick up at my local supermarket. And while it may not be authentic paella, it comes together in about 1 hour total time. I say salud to that!
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Before we get started on the paella recipe, let's go over a few questions folks often have about the dish.
What is paella?
Just as risotto hails from Italy, paella is the traditional rice dish of Spain. The dish is usually made in a large, shallow skillet called a paella pan with short-grain rice such as bomba rice, saffron, and meat and vegetables. The recipe I’ve created here is for paella mixta, or mixed paella, since I include seafood (both shrimp and mussels) as well as smoked sausage.
Where is paella from?
Specifically, paella originates from Valencia, Spain. In fact, the word “paella” in Valencian/Catalan means frying pan.
How to make paella
Paella is surprisingly easy to make. Everything cooks together in one pan. The key for my no-fuss version is to use a lid that fits the large skillet so the rice cooks evenly and soaks up the delicious flavors of the broth, seafood, and meat. You’ll also want to simmer the rice slowly. Ideally you'll get a brown crust (the socarrat) on the bottom of the paella by the end of the cooking time, but you don’t want to go overboard and burn the rice.
What to serve with paella
The beauty of paella is that it's a one-dish dinner. Traditional Spanish paella from Valencia has rabbit, chicken or duck, green beans, and peas in addition to the bomba rice. My seafood paella version doesn’t include those veggies, so you could serve a simple green salad with the paella to round out the meal.
How to store paella
If you happen to have any paella leftovers, let the rice dish come to room temperature and then store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
How long does paella last?
Because it has seafood as a main ingredient, this paella won’t last for more than 2 days in the refrigerator. But don’t worry. I’m pretty sure after one taste of this delicious Spanish dish, you won’t have to deal with any leftovers at all.
How to make weeknight paella step by step
Now that we know a little more about paella, let’s get cooking. Here’s how to make my weeknight paella from start to finish.
1. Gather your paella ingredients
This easy paella recipe relies on ingredients you can get at a well-stocked supermarket.
• Paella rice. For the classic texture, you want a rice that absorbs lots of liquid without getting mushy. Go for bomba rice or other paella rice if your store has it, or use Italian or domestic arborio rice.
• Saffron threads. Saffron is a splurge, but essential for the best-tasting paella. It gives the dish that iconic yellow color, and adds a light floral and earthy flavor.
• Seafood. I went with mussels and peeled and deveined shrimp. You can also use calamari, scallops, or clams as your seafood.
• Smoked sausage. Traditional paella recipes include hard, cooked Spanish chorizo, but it can be difficult to track down. Instead, I opted for smoked sausage such as Hillshire Farms. You could also use andouille.
• Smoked paprika. Since we’re not using Spanish chorizo, which is made with smoked paprika, I added the powdered spice for an extra punch of flavor.
• Aromatics. Onion, garlic, and diced tomatoes give the recipe body.
• Chicken stock and white wine. These are the liquids for the recipe.
2. Bloom the saffron threads
Photo by Ashley Strickland Freeman
The first step to a great paella recipe is developing those iconic flavors. Time to bloom (meaning, steep) the saffron! Heat the chicken stock and white wine in a saucepan until the liquid begins to simmer, then add the saffron threads. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand while you start the paella.
3. Brown the sausage
Now it’s time to start the paella. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch skillet or wide 3 1/2-qt. saute pan and then brown the smoked sausage to add another layer of flavor. Browning caramelizes the edges of the sausage and creates browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Those browned bits eventually get dissolved by the liquid and infused into the rice. Transfer the sausage to a bowl.
4. Saute onion, garlic, and tomatoes
To build more of the flavors in the paella, saute diced onion and 3 cloves garlic. You could also add a diced red bell pepper if you have it. Then add a can of diced tomatoes and cook until the liquid evaporates and the tomatoes begin to fall apart.
5. Add the paella rice
Next stir in the paella rice (or arborio rice) and stir until the grains are coated well in the olive oil. This helps them stay separate as the paella cooks.
6. Add the sausage and liquid
Nestle the smoked sausage into the rice and pour the bloomed saffron-stock mixture over the dish. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce the heat. After about 10 minutes, the paella rice will have soaked up that flavorful chicken broth, saffron, and diced tomatoes.
7. Add the seafood
Photo by Ashley Strickland Freeman
Now it’s time to add our shrimp and mussels. Uncover the large skillet and add the seafood to the top. Cover, and simmer for about 10 more minutes.
Uncover the seafood paella and get ready to dive in! I like to garnish it with fresh parsley and lemon wedges.
Get the easy paella recipe
Richly flavored with saffron, garlic, seafood, and smoked sausage, this delicious paella tastes like it took hours to create. But it’s simple enough that you may find yourself making it every week!
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