How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella

How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella

I made some new mom friends from PickyKidPix’s trip to Italy to play soccer! My friend Nathalie is originally from Spain and she taught me how to make authentic paella. In this version, she was clear that this is authentic Valencia paella which features seafood since it’s a coastal town.

There are many versions that utilize the bounty of their particular area which can include rabbit, chicken, and chorizo sausage. But this version does not; strictly seafood — squid, small shrimp, and scallops but those tiny octopi would be good too. She also made her own seafood stock by boiling cod in water with onions, bay leaf, and salt but she said an easy substitute is canned chicken stock. That works even if you are not adding chicken.

As for quantity, paella is meant to feed a crowd. She made enough for 10-12 (in her mind) but it really was enough to feed at least 15. Paella is great like that for stretching; you simply add more rice.

How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella

She was specific about her ingredients too.

How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella

rice: she prefers long grain white rice

saffron: she uses spice packs which she buys in Spain but you can also use 1/2 teaspoon of saffron. The spice packs are available at Amazon too.

olive oil: extra virgin but it doesn’t have to be from Spain. Trader Joe’s has Spanish olive oil though!

spanish olive oil from Trader Joe's for paella

olives: these must be Spanish because they are the right size and flavor. I found mine at Trader Joe’s too!

spanish olives from Trader Joe's for paella

peas: any small frozen peas will do, but keep them frozen in the freezer until you need them so they don’t get mushy in the pan. You want them rock-solid frozen when you add them to the paella

roasted bell peppers: you can roast and then julienne red bell peppers and then lay on top of the paella at the end for a stunning design. We were hungry and opted out of that.

seafood: get whatever is fresh but do cut up in small 1/2 inch chunks so that it’s easy to combine with the rice.

How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella


Step 1: Prep

The idea here to chop everything into roughly the same size pieces before you heat the paella pan.

The Sofrito

1 small onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

The Seafood

1 pound squid – cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 pound small shrimp – peel and de-vein

1 pound small scallops – cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Other Ingredients

rice – one small handful per person

tomatoes – 3 medium tomatoes, minced

Jarred Spanish olives – about 1/2 cup or to taste

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

saffron or spice packet. If you are using saffron, put 1/2 teaspoon saffron into a small bowl with  ¼ cup hot water and let sit for 15 minutes.


The Stock

Heat to a boil and then simmer for about twenty minutes.

1 pound cod (or other mild white fish)

3 quarts water

salt to taste

1 onion

1 bay leaf


Cooking the  Paella

Step 1: Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil using medium high heat.

Step 2: Add the Sofrito (garlic, onions and bell peppers) that you chopped into small pieces. Sauté for a few minutes until onion is softened.

Step 3: Add the seafood.

How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella

Step 4: Add the tomatoes.

How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella

Step 5: Add the seasoning packet or the saffron. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella

Step 6: Add a small handful of rice per person. Notice how she spreads it around in little mounds. At this point, you can no longer stir the pot AT ALL!
How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella

Step 7: Ladle in the broth to nearly cover the rice. Turn heat down to medium-low.

How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella

Step 8: Add the olives and then add in handfuls of peas. Keep adding broth as needed. While you can’t stir the food, you can move small piles around slightly just to make sure they are covered in broth. I tamp down the rice that isn’t covered in broth to submerge it. Rotate the pan if you are using more than one burner to distribute the heat evenly.

How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella
Step 9: The paella is ready when the broth is absorbed and the rice is cooked through; about 25 to 45 minutes. You can see when the rice is done or you can simply taste it.

Nathalie says you can take the paella off the heat and cover with newspaper or aluminum foil for five minutes but we skipped that part because we were hungry and the rice was perfect.  It’s really important to make sure that the rice is fully cooked.

How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella

Step 10: Serve with lemon wedges and eat immediately! (Note that my friend Nathalie uses limes which are not common in Spain but taste more like the lemons there.)

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How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. It looks beautiful in the pot and your directions were super precise!

  2. Ooh, nice! This seafood-oriented paella sounds like my first experience of paella–in a Spanish restaurant in Japan. I’ve made shorthand-versions of paella for my family, but I’ll have to try this more authentic recipe.
    Asakiyume recently posted…Seen and heard in transitMy Profile

    • Hi Asakiyume,
      I asked my other mom friend from Spain (Madrid) and she uses the Goya saffron mix. My friend Nathalie would insist on her spice brand so I’m sticking to that but I think that seasoning packet is a key ingredient! That and lots of fresh seafood! I also bought my seafood stock when I made it myself. It was a great timesaver and the same cost as buying fish to make the stock. I found it frozen at Whole Foods (thought I had to ask the fish monger).
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…DIY Gratitude Advent Calendar: Day 1 of 12 Days of ShoppingMy Profile

  3. This looks delicious, and I love how easy it is!
    maryanne recently posted…Kiwi Crate Crafting Fun + Doodle Crate Review!My Profile

  4. Sounds yummy. I love paella my Spanish friends makes. But, have never tried to make it.
    Patricia Tilton recently posted…Little Ghost — Halloweensie ContestMy Profile

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this great treat at the Holiday Treat Swap Around the World. It is such an amazing dish!!
    Carrie recently posted…Holiday Cookie/Treat Swap Around the World — a Multicultural Link PartyMy Profile

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