Paella is fantastic, so it’s getting universal, but paella recipes are growing while losing its authentic essence and tradition from Spain. There are sometimes big differences between authentic Spanish recipes and what is promoted as authentic all over the web.
No worries, though, I will show you how authentic paellas are made in Spain.
I’ve lived abroad and I can assure proper paella and Spanish rice recipes can be cooked outside Spain.
Paella is not just a typical dish of Spanish gastronomy with rice as the main ingredient, there is a lot more. The truth is that many of Spanish paella secrets are not commonly known, even somewhere in Spain.
A world of tradition, family recipes, strict variations, Valencian and Spanish culture, traditions, habits, methods…
Learn what is paella and enjoy the whole experience.
The paella history started in Valencia, (east coast of Spain) making us, its inhabitants, very proud of it. This is the history of Paella Valenciana per se.
Types of paella
How many types of paella are there? Do you know types of paella and Spanish “rice” you can cook could be endless? Then, basically they can be differentiated by the amount of water added, hence the stock remaining when ready and the type of ingredients.
Based on the water added, paella recipe can be:
- Seco. The rice is dry, light and not sticking together, perfectly “done”
- Meloso. Creamy. There is still a bit of dense stock
- Caldoso. Soupy rice, when rice floats in stock. The pan, then, is a cauldron instead
Considering the main ingredients, they can be:
- Meat (normally with some vegetables)
- Seafood (they can contain some vegetables)
- Mixed (vegetables, meat and seafood)
Both basic kinds can be usually combined, for example:
- Meat and dry: Paella Valenciana
- Seafood and dry: Rice aside (A banda) or Black Paella
- Vegetarian and dry: Vegetable paella (De verduras)
- Mixed and dry: Mixed paella (Mixta)
- Meat and creamy: Creamy rice with pork ribs (Arroz meloso con costillas)
- Meat and soupy: Rice with rabbit (Arroz con conejo)
- Seafood and creamy: Seafood paella (Paella de marisco)
- Seafood and soupy: Rice with lobster (Arroz con bogavante)
To end up, we could add another type of dish called Arroz al horno, which could be called baked paella. This is typical of Alicante and it mainly contains pork and vegetables. I can assure it’s delicious. (In my top 5)
Hence, combining ingredients and the stock thing you will never get bored of cooking paella.
Main types of Authentic Spanish Paella
There is a list of main ingredients for every sort of paella, whether it is seafood-based, meat paella, vegetarian, paella Valenciana… or a recent invention.
You will find the exact list of ingredients on each recipe’s page, as this will vary sensible depending on the type and style.
That is the million question and there is no right answer because every paella recipe has its own method. However, I will show you the best and easiest way you can make paella.
Do you want to nail paella? Check out my method and quickly learn how to cook paella!
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Paella tips and secrets, do’s and don’ts
- Paella rice type is very important in order to succeed. The rice for paella is short and rounded. Long grain rice doesn’t get easily over-cooked, however, it doesn’t absorb the taste of the rest of the ingredients either. It’s not worth being stingy with the main ingredient! What about other varieties?
- Use a large skillet pan or better a proper paella pan. Rice in paella is cooked in extension, not in height. The thinner the layer of rice, the better the result. Otherwise, the rice on the bottom can be overcooked and make an unpleasant dough, while the rice on the top not cooked enough.
- It is very important that the fire reaches equally to all the bottom of the paella. If your fire is not big enough, use a paella diffuser.
- Gas is the most comfortable option among what you can find in modern kitchens, but there is nothing like firewood. However, you can cook paella in a vitro-ceramic or induction cooker too.
Pro tip – You can use 2 or more gas burners at the same time to spread the heat evenly. Set the same heating power (as possible) on all of them and rotate the pan gradually to asure all the paella get the same heat. This way, you can use a big paella pan at home.
- Be careful with the times: they vary depending on the size of the paella, the thickness of the rice layer, the hardness of the water…
- There are many rules on timings, but the easiest one I’ve found is: let the stock disappear (usually 15 min max heating), turn min heating for 15min, then heating off and wait for 5 min to let it rest.
- You should turn off the fire when the rice has lost its central hardness but is still a little whole.
- The proportion of paella stock: Usually, 1Kg of rice needs 2Kg of stock when using paella rice. When the recipe is not “dried rice” or when using bomba rice, we need a little more liquid.
- When you make seafood rice, use the shells of the shellfish, fishbones, heads… to make the seafood stock.
- If you are going to use mussels, strain them in advance, leave them in their shell (remove the shell that covers) to fatten, and then strain their liquid and add it to the rice stock.
- Chicken stock for paella is easier to make and I recommend using a chicken carcass.
- It is necessary to be generous with the oil but not exceeding the limit, of course, because it can be too heavy. The approximate measure is 0.3l. of oil for each liter of rice. And minimum, Virgin Olive Oil.
- Fresh salad
- Tapas such as padron peppers, serrano ham…
- Desserts such as flan or crema catalana
The magic touch
- A little rosemary or thyme is not a must at all. However, add it before covering the pan to get a spectacular result. Another trick is to add a head of unpeeled garlic, simply cutting the base or just saute it. It gives a delicious taste.
- Another way to enhance the flavor is with fresh crushed garlic and parsley, or a chopped dry red pepper. Just add it before the tomato. Yummy
- Use real saffron. It really makes a difference. And if you’re one of those who like yellow rice, use just a little coloring (but without abusing, and always after having used good saffron), or better yet a little paprika. Enjoy the natural colors of your paella.
In order for the saffron strands to transmit all their flavour, we must toast them inside an aluminium foil, before adding them in pieces to the broth.
- Lemon. Lemon juice helps mask rice flavors and fragrances of a paella recipe. As a cook, I understand someone doesn’t like my rice when they squeeze lemon on it. I like it for decoration on seafood rice, though.
- Never stir the rice after the moment the stock starts boiling. Paella is not risotto.
- Don’t add cold stock if the water has evaporated too quickly, just try it as much as it makes you confident.
- The rice is the main character, don’t saturate the paella with more pieces of meat, fish or vegetables than rice. I’ve seen lots of paella pictures where you can barely see the rice, that’s unacceptable.
- Be careful with the tomato amount, you can easily ruin a paella by adding too much tomato.
- Rice cooked in a saucepan will never be a paella but a rice dough unless the rice depth is no larger than 4 cm.
- We love wine in Spain, but we never pour wine to a paella, not even white whine.
- Egg??!! 🙁
- Spanish chorizo: no, traditional paella don’t have chorizo
Learn how to pronounce and spell paella in Spanish so you can look like you know what you are talking about 🙂