Welcome, fellow food enthusiasts and lovers of Spanish culture! Today, we delve into the captivating world of one of Spain’s most iconic and delectable dishes: the authentic Paella Valenciana!
Grab your forks and get ready for a culinary journey that will transport you directly to the sun-kissed lands of Valencia, where aromas, flavors, and traditions dance harmoniously over the open flame. Who can resist a freshly prepared paella, with its golden and succulent rice, tender pieces of chicken and rabbit, and that burst of color brought to life by garrofó beans and green beans? But let me be clear from the outset: what we’re about to explore here is the authentic Paella Valenciana, the recipe that has been passed down through generations, paying homage to the region’s history and roots.
Are you excited to explore every nuance of flavor and every anecdote of this gastronomic gem? Then join me on this journey through aromas, tastes, and the passion that make the authentic Paella Valenciana a true Spanish treasure. Let’s cook and savor tradition together!
What Could Be Considered An Authentic Paella?
To start with, there are many different recipes inside of the world of Paellas and Arroces, through the Comunidad Valenciana region, with rice as the main common thing that ties all of them together.
In today’s post, we are going to share with you the authentic recipe for Paella Valenciana, with the characteristic ingredients and details to make it perfectly at home, exactly as true Valencians love it.
Let’s set aside the diluted versions that some touristy restaurants try to pass off as “paella.” Here, we’ll dive into the very essence of tradition.
As said, there are many different authentic recipes for Paella and Arroces, but only one Paella Valenciana.
If you want to know more about the fascinating world of Paellas and Arroces, check our post here, where you’ll get a deep dive and insights on how to spot authentic Paella for your next travel to Spain, how to cook it at home and our directory of recipes.
To make it short and sweet, the key points to identify an authentic Paella are:
- Short-grain rice is the type of rice. Never long grain, never parboiled or brown rice.
- Ingredients have cooked inside the paella and not put on top of the rice at the end so the rice absorbs all the flavors.
- The rice should be aldente, perfectly cooked, and separated from the rest.
- The rice layer should not be thick.
- It never includes chorizo, peas, broccoli, parsley, lemon zest, oregano, or Italian seasoning… (the list of sins is long)
- It usually doesn’t mix meat with seafood, although there’s the infamous paella mixta that mixes chicken with seafood; you must know that is a recipe that was developed for tourists.
What’s In A Paella Valenciana?
Now that we have cleared the big points to identify generally a good paella let’s see what a Paella Valenciana has. This recipe is classic from the city of Valencia and its surroundings, and it always has the following ingredients:
- Short grain rice
- Chicken and rabbit as the proteins of choice
- Garrofó beans (white broad beans)
- Green beans (the flat kind)
- Grated tomato to make the flavor base
- Saffron threads for color and flavor
- Rosemary for flavor
- Olive oil, salt, and paprika powder
If you have doubts about the ingredients and substitutions, keep reading, you’ll find everything you need to know about them later on in the post.
Traditionally it is made with this strict set of ingredients, and it’s made with an open fire made exclusively with orange tree wood, but since achieving that level of specific cooking method is complex and not everybody can do it, we are sharing the secrets to achieve a perfectly delicious Paella Valenciana at home made in the stovetop.
What Is Garrofó?
Ah, the garrofó! Allow me to introduce you to this little gem of the Valencian paella. The garrofó is not just any bean; it’s a key ingredient that adds a unique touch to the authentic Paella Valenciana.
Imagine a plump, creamy bean with a slightly nutty flavor and a velvety texture. That’s the garrofó. It’s like the soul of the Valencian countryside captured in a humble legume. These beans are not just any beans; they’re an essential part of the paella Valenciana character.
The garrofó isn’t your typical bean, oh no. It’s larger and rounder, a bit like a lima bean but with a more robust taste. When cooked in the paella, it absorbs the flavors of the broth and the other ingredients, becoming a little flavor bomb that surprises your taste buds with each bite.
But the garrofó isn’t just a tasty addition; it’s also a symbol of the region’s agricultural heritage. Just like the rice that thrives in the Albufera’s fertile lands, the garrofó has a story deeply intertwined with Valencia’s history and culinary traditions. It’s a bean that proudly whispers tales of generations who have cultivated and cherished it.
So, as you savor that spoonful of Paella Valenciana and you encounter the tender garrofó, remember that you’re tasting more than just a bean. You’re tasting the legacy of land, the essence of tradition, and the heart of a dish that embodies the spirit of Valencia.
Of course, Garrofó is a bit difficult to find outside Spain (and even outside the Comunidad Valenciana region), so you can substitute it with other white beans like lima beans or butter beans, but always choose fresh beans, dry beans take way longer to cook.
What Type Of Rice To Use For Paella Valenciana
Rice, for obvious reasons, is one of the main stars of Paella and Arroces, so choosing the right variety can make or break your Paella or Arroz.
For Paellas or Arroz, we highly recommend avoiding the pest using any long-grain rice and wild or brown rice, don’t get me wrong, they are lovely but do not belong in Paella or Arroces, period. Don’t even dare to mention parboiled rice!
The best type of rice you can use is short-grain round rice, if possible we have the following varieties that are perfect to use:
- Sendra (also known as Cendra)
But if you cannot find any of these varieties, don’t worry; you can use any of the varieties used for Italian risottos, like Arborio or Carnaroli. These types of varieties are known to absorb a lot of the flavors while maintaining their shape well, so they are perfect for Paella or Arroz. Don’t worry about the rice becoming too creamy; that only happens if you stir it (which you’ll not).
Avoid also Sushi rice because while it’s also short grain, it has a high percentage of starch, resulting in a sticky consistency.
If you are not sure about what variety you have or are purchasing, don’t worry; any short-grain rice will do.
What Is Socarrat? How To Achieve Perfect Socarrat
Ah, let’s talk about one of the most coveted aspects of a perfectly cooked Paella Valenciana: the socarrat. If the paella were a symphony, the socarrat would be its crescendo, the moment when flavors, textures, and aromas reach their pinnacle.
Picture this: a golden-brown, slightly crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the paella pan, forming a delicate crust. That’s the socarrat. It’s more than just a caramelized layer; it’s a testament to the skilled hands that have mastered the art of paella-making.
The socarrat isn’t a happy accident; it’s a result of precise technique and attention. As the paella simmers over the open flame, the liquid gradually evaporates, and the rice at the bottom comes into contact with direct heat. This heat transforms the rice into a masterpiece, where the grains toast, becoming slightly crispy on the outside while maintaining their tenderness within.
Now, why is the socarrat so revered? Well, it’s not just about the satisfying crunch when you take a spoonful (although that’s undeniably delightful). The socarrat encapsulates the essence of balance in a paella—how the cook manages to capture flavors and textures in perfect harmony. It’s like the crown jewel of the paella, the treasure at the bottom of the pan.
Every Valencian paella enthusiast knows that the quest for the ultimate socarrat is a labor of love. It requires patience, constant vigilance, and a keen eye for timing. And when that moment arrives, and you hear the gentle crackle of the socarrat as your spoon meets the pan, you know you’re about to experience a culinary sensation that’s truly one-of-a-kind.
So, when you savor your Paella Valenciana and reach that bottom layer of rice with its beautiful socarrat, relish every bite. You’re savoring the heart and soul of the paella, a testimony to the craftsmanship that turns a humble dish into a masterpiece on a plate.
Let’s break down the steps to help you achieve that coveted crispy layer of rice at the bottom of your paella pan:
- Choose the right pan: Start with a wide, shallow paella pan, preferably made of carbon steel. This type of pan distributes heat evenly and allows for better evaporation, which is key to creating socarrat.
- Control the heat: The key to achieving socarrat is maintaining a controlled heat source. If you’re cooking over an open flame, adjust the flames so they evenly cover the bottom of the pan. If you’re using a stovetop, start with medium-high heat and adjust as needed.
- Spread the Rice Thinly: After adding the rice and liquid to the paella pan, spread the rice evenly and avoid overcrowding the pan. This allows for more even cooking and better chances of achieving socarrat.
- Monitor Evaporation: As the paella cooks, keep an eye on the liquid level. You want the liquid to gradually evaporate, concentrating the flavors. But don’t let it dry out completely, as that could lead to burnt rice without achieving socarrat.
- Listen and Observe: As the liquid evaporates, you’ll start to hear a gentle crackling sound. This is the telltale sign that socarrat is forming. At this point, lower the heat slightly and pay close attention to the aroma and color of the rice.
- Rotate the Pan: If you’re using a small stovetop, consider rotating the paellera gently, allowing different parts of the bottom to come into contact with the heat. This promotes even caramelization.
- Test the Rice: Carefully use a spoon to lift a corner of the rice from the bottom of the pan. You’re looking for a crispy, golden-brown layer. If it’s not quite there yet, give it a bit more time.
- Patience is Key: Achieving socarrat takes time and patience. It’s better to take it slow and avoid rushing the process. A little extra time is worth it for that perfect result.
- Remove from Heat: Once you’re satisfied with the socarrat, remove the paella from the heat source.
Remember, achieving socarrat is both an art and a science. It might take a few attempts to get it just right, but each time you cook Paella Valenciana, you’ll be honing your skills and inching closer to that perfect balance of crispy and tender. So, roll up your sleeves, embrace the process, and savor the journey toward achieving that delightful socarrat in your paella. ¡Buen provecho!
Should You Use Water Or Stock For Paella Valenciana?
There’s a bit of controversy when it comes to the usage of water or stock for Paella Valenciana; some purists say it should be made only with water, so the stock is, in a way, created inside the Paella, after the sofrito and by boiling all the ingredients before adding the rice.
However, some cooks and chefs like to add some chicken stock to the Paella Valenciana. In this recipe, we are sharing with you how to make it with water and still get a delicious and tasty Paella Valenciana.
How Much Rice Per Person For Paella Valenciana
Rice/stock Rato For Perfect Results:
It is commonly known to be 80-100 gr of rice per person (2.80 oz/3.52 oz). Usually, to cook rice for paella, you need two parts stock for every part rice.
However, since we are making the stock inside of the Paella pan and some evaporation will occur, we’ll add 1 part extra water, so in this case, it will be 1 part rice, two parts water + 1 part extra water.
How to Make Paella Valenciana
To make the authentic Paella Valenciana, you’ll need the following equipment for the best results:
- Paella pan, or a flat and wide pan in case you don’t have one.
- Wooden spoon or spatula to cook everything.
- Fine grater
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 1 dish
- 1 small bowl
- Big fire stove.
- 10 oz /300 gr chicken cut into small pieces (thighs, drums, wings)
- 7 oz / 200 gr rabbit cut into small pieces.
- 2 big ripe tomatoes
- 7 oz / 200 gr garrofó
- 3.5 oz / 100 gr flat green beans
- 2 cups / 320 gr short-grain rice
- 5 cups/ 800 ml water
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika powder
- 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 — Cut the tomatoes in half and grate the pulp with the fine grater. Set aside the pulp in a bowl.
2 — Cut the ends of the flat green beans and cut them into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
3 — In the paella pan, add the olive oil and heat on medium heat.
4 — Add the chicken and rabbit and season with a bit of salt. Cook for 10 minutes until browned on all sides.
5 — Add the garrofó white beans and the green beans to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or so on medium heat so they brown a bit.
6 — Set everything to the sides of the paella pan, and in the middle, add the sweet paprika powder. Cook for 1 minute, mixing it with the wooden spoon.
7 — Add the grated tomato pulp to the paella pan and mix well with the paprika powder.
8 — Mix everything inside the paella pan so every piece of meat and vegetables gets coated in the tomato pulp.
9 — Add the water to the paella and also the rosemary sprig and saffron threads.
10 — Boil on medium for 10-15 minutes. Taste the broth for salt and adjust if needed.
11 — Add the rice and spread with a wooden spoon. Let cook on high heat for 12 minutes and then lower it to medium for 3 additional minutes so it can caramelize without burning, creating the famous “socarrat”
12 — Cover with a lid for a couple of minutes if the rice it’s still a bit too hard so it can soften with the residual heat.
13 — Serve with lemon wedges.
Notes and FAQs
Still with doubts? Don’t worry; we spill all the tea about ingredients, cooking methods, storage, etc., in this section so you can reproduce this recipe like a local.
Sofrito: The sofrito is considered to be the base of flavor, a key step to achieving the delicious flavor of any paella recipe, specifically a Paella Valenciana recipe in this case. It starts when we fry up the meat, so it browns a bit, and then add the veggies to add more flavor, and continues with the grated tomatoes and paprika powder.
Stock: in traditional Paella Valenciana, the stock is made directly in the paella pan by boiling all the ingredients in it. But although not traditional, you can also enhance the flavors by adding half water and half chicken stock to it.
Cooking the rice and achieving perfect socarrat: The rice has to be added once the stock is ready and boiling. Add the rice by evenly distributing it all over the paella pan and then distribute it with the spatula, but then once distributed, don’t move again. If you move it, the rice will release its starch, turning it into a risotto consistency in the best of cases or a mush in the worse case.
Socarrat is achieved at the end of the cooking process when the stock has been absorbed by the rice and the caramelization starts. Be careful and do this step on medium heat while there’s still a bit of stock left.
Heat: to cook Paella Valenciana (or any Paella or Arroz recipe), you will need a big enough heat source since the paella pan is wide and flat. In Spain, we have portable gas stoves (called fogón para paella) that are bigger than traditional stoves, so the heat gets evenly distributed into the pan. If you cannot find one of those, make sure to use the biggest fire stovetop available. You might need to move around the Paella pan, so all of it will receive enough heat.
- Chicken and rabbit: usually made with both kinds of meat, but if you cannot or like a rabbit, you can simply use more chicken. Choosebone-inn parts like thighs and wings since those are more flavorful and juicier. Avoid using chicken breasts.
- Rice: short grain rice, preferably bomba, Sendra, or Calasparra varieties; if not, risotto kinds like arborio or carnarolli work well too.
- Tomatoes: Big, ripe, and juicy are the 3 keys to have in mind.
- Garrofó beans: If you can find them, if not, lima or butter beans are good options too. The only consideration to have is to choose fresh beans. Dry beans take way longer to cook.
- Flat green beans: choose fresh flat green beans.
- Olive oil: of course, as in any Spanish recipe, this is the only kind to use. Avoid using any other kind of oil.
- Saffron threads: if you don’t have it in threads, you can use saffron powder; in this case, use ½ teaspoon.
- Sweet paprika powder: sweet or smokey paprika powder is the way to go, never the spicy kind.
- Rosemary: fresh is best, if possible. If not, add only 1 teaspoon of dry rosemary.
Paella Valenciana is meant to be eaten right away, right after being made; however, if any leftovers might occur, they can be stored in the fridge in closed containers for up to 4 days. To reheat the leftovers add a bit of olive oil to a pan and heat it on medium heat for 5-7 minutes.
Paella Valenciana Recipe
- Paella pan or a flat and wide pan in case you don’t have one
- Wooden spoon or spatula to cook everything
- Fine grater
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 1 dish
- 1 small bowl
- Big fire stove
- 300 g chicken cut into small pieces (thighs, drums, wings)
- 200 g rabbit cut into small pieces
- 2 big ripe tomatoes
- 200 g garrofó
- 100 g flat green beans
- 320 g short-grain rice
- 5 cups water
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 tsp saffron threads
- 2 tsp sweet paprika powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Cut the tomatoes in half and grate the pulp with the fine grater. Set aside the pulp in a bowl.
- Cut the ends of the flat green beans and cut them into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
- In the paella pan add the olive oil and heat on medium heat.
- Add the chicken and rabbit and season with a bit of salt. Cook for 10 minutes until browned on all sides.
- Add the garrofó white beans and the green beans to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or so on medium heat so they brown a bit.
- Set everything to the sides of the paella pan and in the middle add the sweet paprika powder. Cook for 1 minute mixing it with the wooden spoon.
- Add the grated tomato pulp to the paella pan and mix well with the paprika powder.
- Mix everything inside the paella pan so every piece of meat and vegetables gets coated in the tomato pulp.
- Add the water to the paella and also the rosemary sprig and saffron threads.
- Boil on medium for 10-15 minutes. Taste the broth for salt and adjust if needed.
- Add the rice and spread with a wooden spoon. Let cook on high heat for 12 minutes and then lower it to medium for 3 additional minutes so it can caramelize without burning creating the famous “socarrat”
- Cover with a lid for a couple of minutes if the rice it’s still a bit too hard so it can soften with the residual heat.
- Serve with lemon wedges.