Paella valenciana is a traditional Spanish (Valencian) dish and here’s an authentic recipe.
You’ve probably heard of paella (read paeya) as a Spanish dish. It’s from the region of Valencia and the most traditional recipe is called Paella Valenciana. It’s a marvellous blend of rice, meat and vegetables combines with the cooking skills of Valencian grandmas…it’s something you have to try when in Valencia.
Sadly, some famous chefs have been abusing this recipe in their TV shows and telling the audiences that paella is something which is most definitely isn’t. You can find Youtube videos called paella recipes that have nothing to do with paella. It’s not so difficult to make the Paella Valenciana, however, you need to know what paella is and what it isn’t. Not every dish where rice mixes with other things can be called paella. Just like you cannot take tagliatelle, throw in some bacon and call it mac and cheese.
I am so lucky to have my Valencian mother-in-law, the paella is part of her DNA and I am fortunate to be able to learn it from her.
Before we go any further, I have to tell you that the pan for cooking paella is also called paella, so don’t let it confuse you. And if, after eating this Spanish main course, you also crave a Spanish dessert, you can make Coffee Flan or Churros.
What is Paella Valenciana
It is a recipe from rice, chicken and rabbit meat, meatballs called albondigas, red pepper, large beans and bean sprouts. Everything is cooked together. Each family can have their own variation of the recipe. Someone adds a little wine to the rice or has another twist.
What is NOT Paella Valenciana
It’s definitely not rice with anything, even if it’s Spanish ingredients. Chorizo, onion, eggs, broccoli…those are just some of this things that don’t come into paella. This would be something the Valencians call arròs en coses or “rice with things”. There’s also no fresh vegetables or hardboiled eggs on the top of the paella, there are restaurants which do that and that is how you know that a restaurant doesn’t cook authentic paella. And paella is also definitely not something where you cook the ingredients apart and then mix them together. Last but not least, paella isn’t made in the oven. There’s a plenty of Valencian recipes for baked rice, paella is not one of them.
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- paella pan – like this one. This pan is worth the investment. Wok and non-stick pans are a no-no for paella.
- 100g/3.5oz of rice/person – paella rice has short round grain, like this one
- 100ml/3.4 oz of oil/3 people
- 3 pcs of chicken and rabbit meat/person
- half red pepper/3 people
- green bean sprouts and large beans – amount according to taste
- 1 large grated tomato/3-6 people
- sweet paprika
- saffron or orange powder food colorant – This ingredient has been used as a saffron substitute. Saffron is an expensive ingredients and families who couldn’t afford it just used the colorant.
For 6 people:
- 250g/8.8 oz of minced pork
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp of dried or fresh chopped parsley
Paella Valenciana – Recipe
Before you start
Traditional recipes tend to be difficult sometimes because they don’t have exact measurements. As for paella, you might hear that you put “just enough” of this and “until is makes glop-glop” of that. I am lucky enough that my mother-in-law’s recipe has most measurements given in numbers 🙂
I’m giving amounts per person and of course, the first thing you have to have is a pan for the amount of people you want to cook for.
Paella has to be cooked over gas or fire (in Spain some people have outside stations called paelleros). The bottom of the pan isn’t flat and the paella wouldn’t cook well on an induction stove. Sometimes, when people cook for a larger number of people they get a special cooker connected to a gas bomb:
Prepare meatballs (albondigas)
Mix all the ingredients, as for the breadcrumbs, add enough to make the mixture compact. Make balls that fit your hand and set aside.
Seal meat, vegetables and cook albondigas
Heat the oil and seal the meat. Then add the red pepper and the rest of the vegetables and fry fast.
Add grated tomato.
When the meat releases juice, add sweet paprika. Don’t burn it because it would go bitter.
Pour water in the pan almost all the way to the top, there should be a two-finger space between the water and the edge. Add salt and saffron or colorant. Just a little is enough to make the water a little orange. Let it simmer for half an hour, then add the albondigas and boil for 5 more minutes.
Time to add rice
Then add the rice and boil for 15-20 minutes. Add water, if necessary. After 15 minutes try if the rice is done. If it isn’t, cover the paella with aluminum foil and cook for 5 more minutes (or more if necessary).
The paella is done when the rice is soft and there’s no water in the pan. And by this time is smells deliciously.
How to serve paella
You can serve paella on plates, this is common especially for children. However, adults often eat with with a spoon directly from the pan. Many people’s favorite part is the socarraet which is the brown juices that stick to the bottom of the pan. As soon as we get to the bottom there’s a spoon fight because everybody wants a little of this flavory delicacy.