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Maria’s Classic Paella

Maria Spieth from United States

25 minutes
Cooks in
60 minutes
Country of origin

When I was 17, just out of high school and enjoying the summer, I met a Spanish boy and of course, I was smitten. He was only here for the summer, but we became close friends fast. After he left, I scraped, saved, begged and borrowed to afford a 2 week trip to visit him in Madrid. To save money I stayed with him and his parents. While there, his mother made paella, with shrimp, clams, mussels and crawfish. It was heaven, so delicious, aromatic and the experience stuck with me. After my whirlwind trip there full of museums, tapas, road trips to the country side and all the glitz of Madrid, I came home determined to extend the experience. The internet didn’t exist then and I wasn’t patient enough for the library, so I tried to recreate the paella I enjoyed, along with a potato egg dish I couldn’t remember the name of then, but now know as tortilla de patatas. So there I was, fresh from the heady experience of traveling to another country solo, trying to make paella, in an electric wok, from memory using Asian white rice. Needless to say it was a epic disaster, but my parents muscled their way through it, bless their hearts, even “oooohing & aaahhing” while I dissected the dish trying to figure out what I did wrong.

I’ve tinkered with the recipe over the years, too many times to recount and friends have come to visit me from Madrid to help me perfect the flavors I remember. With each bite, I’m taken back to that first trip and all the memories and friendships I made. I hope my recipe imparts a bit of the Spanish life for you. Enjoy!


  • 4 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 20 saffron threads, crushed
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 chicken thighs, de-boned & cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 links chorizo de bilbao (spicy Spanish semi-cured sausage)
  • 2 cups Spanish paella rice
  • 2 teaspoons Spanish sweet paprika
  • 2 Tb tomato paste
  • 8 clams in shell, scrubbed, or more to taste
  • 8 mussels, cleaned and debearded, or more to taste
  • 8 prawns, peeled and deveined (leave tails)
  • 3 roasted red bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 10 ounces peas
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 8 wedges lemon
  • 1 baguette, sliced


  • 1. Bring stock to a simmer in a stockpot over medium-low heat. Stir crushed saffron into the simmering stock.
  • 2. Heat olive oil in a paella pan over medium heat. Fry chicken thighs in hot oil until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion is translucent, 5 to 7 minutes more. Arrange the chorizo into the pan around the chicken and cook until warmed, 3 to 5 minutes per side.
  • 3. Pour rice into the paella pan and stir to coat with oil; season with sweet paprika. Stir tomato paste into the rice and cook until the tomato is warmed, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • 4. Pour chicken stock into the paella pan and bring to a boil while scraping any browned bits of food off the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged wooden spoon. Smooth surface of rice with the wooden spoon in an even layer so it cooks evenly.
  • 5. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, without stirring, until the rice has softened but has yet to completely absorb the stock, 15 to 30 minutes.
  • 6. Place clams and mussels, hinged-side down, into the rice; continue simmering until the mussels and clams open, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • 7. Nestle prawns into the rice; add bell pepper and peas. Continue cooking until the bottom of the rice is browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle parsley over the paella, and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve with baguette slices.
  • Cook’s Note: For this recipe, a special 4-person paella pan was used to create the authentic flavors of paella found in Spain. If you’re not able to find a paella pan at your local specialty kitchen supply shop, you can also use a large flat-bottomed pan for this recipe, but it does need to have a flat bottom and able to be heated evenly to cook the rice. You can use other vegetables, like green beans, Spanish beans, and artichoke hearts along with the peas in this recipe or leave them out. We prefer just the peas in our paella. You can also use any variety of seafood, based on seasonal availability.


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