Make Traditional Spanish Paella at Home with This Simple Formula

May  4, 2018

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.

No reservations required! Photo by Ty Mecham

In their latest book, renowned Boqueria chef Marc Vidal and owner Yann de Rochefort share the five steps to a bold paella swimming with seafood:

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.

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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.

Have you made paella at home? Share your favorite flavor combinations below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


HalfPint May 9, 2018
I've always failed at paella. I think I'm stirring it too much. Can't wait to give this a try :)
Smaug October 28, 2018
I tend to chicken out on the socorrat.