Just as much as I appreciate a quick and simple meal, I also really enjoy making more involved meals when I have the opportunity.  For me, so much of the joy of cooking is in the process.  I love spending time in the kitchen, taking care in each step to make a meal the best it can be.  This year, as a birthday gift to myself, I made this paella to share with friends.  Just the chance to prepare this dish and the challenge of trying something new and involved was exactly what I wanted.

Now I know there are lots of quicker versions of paella out there, but I wanted to go for the real thing.  I saw this recipe in a magazine last summer and immediately knew that it was the version I wanted to make when I got around to trying it.  Despite the multiple steps involved, this actually took less time than I expected.  Now I’ve never had paella in Spain so I can’t compare, but this turned out even better than I was hoping for.  My only disappointment was that the texture of the rice seemed a bit creamier than is typical of paella, and I know that is due to the fact that I didn’t use bomba rice because I couldn’t find it anywhere.  I’m already looking forward to trying again with the correct type of rice, and maybe with other combinations of protein besides just seafood.  If you enjoy cooking for the sake of cooking, I definitely recommend paella.  It is fun to make and the final product is something to be proud of.

  • Yield 4-6 servings


¼ tsp. crumbled saffron threads
1 cup clam juice
1 small yellow onion (about 4 oz.)
2-3 ripe tomatoes (about 12 oz.)
¼ cup plus 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped plus 4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
½ tsp. smoked paprika
Kosher salt
12 large (31-40/lb.) shrimp, peeled with tails intact and deveined (shells reserved)
1 lb. mussels, rinsed
1¾ cups Spanish bomba rice
12 sea scallops
1 lemon, cut into wedges


  • 01

    In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, toast the saffron over 30-60 seconds.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Finely crush the saffron threads with the back of a spoon.  Add the clam juice to the pan and return to the burner.  Bring to a boil.  Once the mixture reaches a boil, remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to infuse.

  • 02

    To make the sofrito, halve and peel the onion.  Grate the onion halves on the largest holes of a box grater to get about 1/3 cup of onion puree.  Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally.  Grate the tomato halves on the box grater down to the skin to get about 1¼ cups juicy tomato pulp.  Place a 14- to 16-inch paella pan over medium-low heat.  Add ¼ cup of the oil to the pan.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion to the pan, stirring occasionally, until it softens and darkens slightly, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the tomato pulp, chopped and whole garlic, paprika, and ¼ teaspoon of salt.  Cook the mixture in the center of the pan, stirring frequently, until it’s deep, dark red and very thick, 30-40 minutes.  Adjust the heat as needed, taking care not to let it burn.  If the mixture starts to stick, add a bit of water and scrape to deglaze the pan.

  • 03

    While the sofrito is cooking, add the shrimp shells to a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shells are dry and pink, 2-3 minutes.  Add 5 cups of water to the pan and bring to a boil.  Pick through the mussels to find the 12 smallest.  Remove the beards if present, and reserve in the refrigerator.  Add the remaining mussels to the pot with the boiling water.  Cover, reduce the heat to low, and and simmer for 10 minutes.  Strain the broth into a 2-quart measure, discarding the shells and mussels.  Add the saffron-clam broth and 1½ teaspoon salt to the shrimp-mussel broth.  Measure out 5¼ cups of the broth, reserving the remainder.

  • 04

    When the sofrito is finished, add the rice to the paella pan and cook briefly over medium heat, stirring constantly to combine, 1-2 minutes.  Spread the rice evenly over the pan, increase the heat to high and slowly add the 5¼ cups broth, trying to keep the rice in an even layer.  From this point on, do not stir the rice.  Bring to a boil and then adjust the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer, repositioning the pan as necessary so it bubbles all the way to the edges.  Simmer vigorously until the rice appears at the level of the broth, about 8 minutes.

  • 05

    Arrange the reserved mussels in the pan, spacing them evenly.  Reduce the heat so the broth maintains a more moderate simmer and after another 5 minutes, arrange the shrimp in the pan, pressing them into the rice.  Continue to simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender but still firm, about 5 minutes more.  The rice needs to simmer for roughly 18 minutes total.  (If the broth seems to be evaporating too quickly, cover loosely with foil or add a bit more broth or water, ¼ cup at a time as needed.)

  • 06

    While the paella cooks, lightly season the scallops with salt.  Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the scallops and cook until nicely browned on both sides and just cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side.

  • 07

    When the rice is done, arrange the scallops on top of the paella.  Check for any caramelized rice sticking to the pan by using a spoon to feel for resistance on the bottom of the pan.  Check in multiple areas, especially the center.  If none of the rice is caramelized, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, moving the pan around, until you hear a good deal of cracking and feel resistance, about 1-2 minutes.

  • 08

    Remove the pan from the heat.  Cover with foil or a dishtowel and let rest 5-10 minutes.  Arrange lemon wedges around the perimeter of the pan and serve.