Seafood Paella – popular classic Spanish one-pan dish loaded with saffron-infused Arborio rice, chorizo, shrimp, mussels and boatloads of flavors. Fancy enough for a dinner date night or for entertaining a crowd. And it’s waaay easier than you think it is!
I grew up with people who loves rice and somehow elevate it to the next level. It has become not just a dish but *THE* dish during special gatherings. Even up to this day, no parties would be complete without a huge pan of our Jollof Rice and on some occasion this loaded Spanish national dish Seafood Paella.
Today’s recipe is a perfect dish during a cookout or whenever you’re entertaining a large crowd, yet fancy enough for an intimate dinner date. I mean white wine-infused shrimp and mussels cooked over saffron-infused rice??? How can you not possibly consider it romantic? If you want to impress your date, guests or family, then this paella recipe here is one of those few that must go down to your family recipe book.
What is Paella?
Paella is derived from an old French word “paelle” which stands for frying pan and also from a Latin word “patella” for pan. Some would also claim that it came from an Arabic word “baquia” meaning leftovers.
What most of us commonly know though is that Paella is a Spanish, Valencian to be exact, rice dish that usually consists of white rice, meat (chicken, duck or rabbit), green beans, tomatoes and seasonings such as sweet paprika, saffron and rosemary. Seafood Paella on the other hand replaces meat with seafood like shrimp and shellfish. It has grown its popularity over the years across Spain with some regional variation adding chorizo sausages in it and other vegetables.
Seafood Paella Ingredients
First off, let me tell you not to get intimidated with the long list of ingredients. Making a paella is actually easier than you think it is. And would you not be happy just thinking of all these flavors and protein you get to enjoy in every spoonful? Using quality ingredients is a KEY in this rice and seafood recipe. Trust me, it’s TOTALLY worth it!
We’re breaking down below some of the major components on what makes a SEAFOOD PAELLA a dish that lights up the crowd.
The key to making a great paella recipe is in the rice. Traditional paella uses short-grain, almost round, white rice – like Bomba – which are widely grown in Spain. This type of rice absorbs more water, thus making it more flavorful, without turning mushy. You may purchase this at specialty stores.
But since it’s hard to find this special ingredient in my neck of woods, I decided to use Italian Arborio rice which is often used as substitute for Bomba. Always remember that for every cup of this variety of rice, you need 2 cups of water or liquid.
Dubbed as the world’s most legendary spice, saffron is a mainstay in making a Spanish Paella. This red thread-like with yellow hue spice is literally and figuratively the stuff of the legend – quite pricey if I may say. It has that slightly sweet and luxurious taste and a mesmerizing fragrant smell. Words can’t best describe it, but you’ll be able recognize it once you’ve tasted it.
You may buy saffron threads in Middle Eastern or Spanish specialty stores, Whole Foods and other gourmet stores or on amazon.com.
Adding chorizo to paella is sort of regional (not all Spanish are okay with it), but please hear me out. I’ve HONESTLY tried paellas with and without the chorizo, but I must say I’m on #CampChorizo as its sweet and smoky flavor complement well with the smoked paprika in the dish. Indeed, it adds another great layer of flavor that is truly remarkable. If you think it’s not necessary, feel free to OMIT it. If you want to be more adventurous in the kitchen, then by all means, give it a go.
For this Seafood Paella recipe, I use shrimp and mussels PLUS a seafood broth to incorporate a well-defined seafood flavor in this dish. You can also add clams and other seafood ingredient to your liking. These seafood certainly make this dish pop on any party tables with all those well-arranged freshly cooked seafood sitting atop that gorgeous fragrant yellow rice. Oooh…your house will smell heavenly with this. You might have some of your neighbors come knocking up at your door.
Make sure to arrange the mussels facing up so they can open up. You’ll know when your seafood is cooked through once the shrimp are pink and the mussels open up.
Other Paella Variations
As mentioned above, paella has quite a lot of variations (see the recipes HERE). You may start with this dish and go on a bit adventurous by making some of this below on your next paella cooking session:
- Go vegetarian by replacing rice with quinoa and a mix of seafood
- more seafood by adding lobster, calamares
- chicken, duck or rabbit meat + the seafood
- black paella with rich squid ink and slices of lemon
- mushrooms, lima beans, green peppers, artichokes and olives
What to Serve with Seafood Paella?
I’ve always enjoyed Seafood Paella as it is (and, of course, a glass of white wine), just like most of us do. You can’t be looking for more when you have everything right under your nose – rice…seafood..veggies.. oh YES please! However, you can have CERTAIN dishes to serve with it if you want to go all out. Below are some of my favorites:
- Caesar Salad (see my homemade Caesar Salad Dressing HERE)
- Fried Plantains
- Crusty bread like a warm baguette
- Chilled gazpacho
- Roasted red pepper
- Albondigas (check for my recipe SOON 😉 )
Can I Keep Paella in the Fridge?
For any leftover non-seafood PAELLA (like chorizo and chicken), transfer it to an airtight container until it has completely cooled. Cover and place in the fridge for up to 3-5 days or freeze up to a month. However, for a SEAFOOD PAELLA, you can only store it in the fridge for up to 24 hours as seafood can go bad very fast.
How to Reheat Paella?
To reheat a paella, simply place a pan on the stovetop, add oil and let it heat. Then add your paella to the pan and even out. Stir for a few minutes until reheated. Reheating a paella in a microwave is not that ideal after all.
More One-Pan Rice Recipes
How To Make Paella
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large cast iron skillet or paella pan over medium high heat, add chorizo and sauté until browned, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and set aside; leaving juices in pan. Add in garlic, onion, red bell pepper, thyme, bay leaf, smoked paprika, pinch of salt & pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until onions and peppers start to soften. Add in white wine and allow liquid to evaporate, about 1-2 minutes.
Add in the can of crushed tomatoes and seafood broth. Bring to a boil and add the rice and saffron threads. Stir the rice to combine, then lower heat to low and cover for 15 minutes. This achieves a crispy bottom layer. Add in the chorizo back in.
Add the thawed peas and stir. Then add the seafood on top, with the opening of the mussels facing up so they can open. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes then flip shrimp and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. Shrimp should be pink and mussels should open. Remove from heat, top with parsley, serve with fresh lemon slices.
- 3 tablespoons (42 ml) olive oil
- 6 ounces (170 g) dried chorizo sausage , sliced, and cut into half moons
- 1 tablespoon (8 g) garlic , minced
- 1 medium yellow onion , diced, about 1 cup
- 1 medium bell pepper , ½ diced , ½ sliced , ¾ -1 cup
- 1 teaspoon (1 g) thyme , diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) smoked paprika
- salt and pepper
- ½ cup (117.5 ml) dry white wine
- 15 oz (425 g) crushed tomatoes
- 2 ¾ cups (687 ml) seafood broth or water (see notes below)
- 1 ½ cups (295.5 g) arborio rice
- ½ teaspoon saffron threads
- ¾ cup (120 g) frozen peas , thawed
- 1 pound (453 g) large shrimp , peeled and deveined
- ½ pound (226 g) black mussels
- 2 tablespoons (8 g) chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 lemon , sliced
- Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large cast iron skillet or paella pan over medium high heat, add chorizo and sauté until browned, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and set aside; leaving juices in pan.
- Add in garlic, onion, red bell pepper, thyme, bay leaf, smoked paprika, pinch of salt & pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until onions and peppers start to soften. Add in white wine and allow liquid to evaporate, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add in the can of crushed tomatoes and seafood broth. Bring to a boil and add the rice and saffron threads. Stir the rice to combine, then lower heat to low and cover for 15 minutes. This achieves a crispy bottom layer. Add in the chorizo back in along with the thawed peas and stir. Then add the seafood on top, with the opening of the mussels facing up so they can open. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes then flip shrimp and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. Shrimp should be pink and mussels should open.
- Remove from heat, top with parsley, serve with fresh lemon slices.
Tips & Notes:
- Seafood broth is achievable by boiling shrimp shells in 4 cups of water for 10 minutes. Drain in a fine-meshed sifter and set aside until ready to use.
- A large skillet or pan will work well if you don't have a paella pan at home.
- Arborio rice is an Italian short-grain rice.
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on products used.