Between achieving that crispy, caramelized bottom and steamy, tender center (we’re not even going to go into the fillings), it might be tempting to leave paella to professional chefs. But the fragrant rice dish started out in the humble home kitchens of southern Spain—no fancy stovetops, high-tech gadgets, or advanced culinary degrees. And that means you can make mouthwatering paella in your kitchen, too. Let’s get started.
We do it Catalan-style, adding both sofrito and picada for a more robust flavor. The former brings the earthy sweetness of caramelized tomatoes, onions, and garlic; the latter delivers the fresh bite of parsley in a saffron-scented olive oil. Lobster stock deepens the from-the-sea juiciness of cuttlefish, squid, mussels, clams, and cod.
Before you begin, you’ll need a paellera, a paella pan. Vidal and Rochefort recommend a traditional carbon steel paellera, which conducts heat quickly and evenly to create that characteristically crispy bottom, the socorrat.
First, prep all of your ingredients. This recipe calls for lobster stock, sofrito and picada—all of which need to be made in advance. For the lobster stock, you can make and freeze weeks before using, and use sweet paprika instead of dried ñora pepper if you want to speed up the picada prep.
Next, add oil and get that paellera piping hot. You want to sear your seafood—first the shrimp and monkfish, then cuttlefish and squid—until it’s nice and brown. (Make sure to take out the shrimp and monkfish so they don’t overcook.) Then add your flavor boosters: hot lobster stock, sofrito, and picada and bring to a boil. After that, add the rice and stir only enough to make sure it’s evenly distributed. The grains should cook separately from one another.
“Engaged couples have even been known to fight over which of Spain’s two principal types of rice to throw at their wedding,” they write. “Bomba or calasparra? Yes, the great paella dispute can leave Spaniards simmering.”
Lastly, top with those cooked shrimp and fish as well as mussels and clams. Five minutes over high heat will open up your mollusks and create that almost-charred socorrat. After letting it rest, it’s ready to eat—but we don’t need to tell you the authentic way to do that.
Seafood Paella (Paella de Mariscos)
For the paella:
- 4 cups Lobster Stock (see below)
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
- 4 ounces monkfish or cod, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 6 large shell-on, head-on shrimp, preferably red shrimp
- 1/4 pound cuttlefish, cut into 1/2-inch dice (If you can’t find cuttlefish, also called sepia, you can use more squid instead.)
- 7 ounces squid bodies and tentacles, bodies cut into 1/2-inch rings
- 3 tablespoons Sofrito (see below)
- 3 tablespoons Picada (see below)
- 1 1/2 cups bomba rice
- 12 mussels, beards removed, cleaned well (discard any that have opened)
- 12 manila clams or cockles, scrubbed well (discard any that have opened)
- 1 pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the lobster stock, sofrito, picada:
- 9 raw lobster heads (2 pounds) (Chef’s tip: You can ask for lobster heads at your local market’s seafood counter. If you can’t find them, use 2 pounds of large shell-on shrimp with heads instead.)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup cooking brandy
- 1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/2 onion, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 head garlic, cut in half through its “equator”
- 1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 2 tablespoons sweet pimentón (smoked paprika)
- 3 tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 pound ripe tomatoes, cut in 1-inch chunks
- 1 8-ounce) white Spanish onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed
- 1/2 cup blended canola-olive oil
- 1 dried ñora pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 2 (3/4-inch-thick) slices baguette
- 1 pinch of saffron threads
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pinch Kosher salt, to taste
Have you made paella at home? Share your favorite flavor combinations below!