HomeRice and PastaPaella


Origin: Valencia


Paella originated in Valencia. It's a humble dish with many years of tradition. It's popularity has been so large that there are many variations in different areas of Spain and known in the entire world. Most, if not all, Spanish restaurants in Spain and abroad serve paella.

The word paella means "frying pan" in Valencia which derived from the Latin patella. It receives its name from the large frying pan like implement used to cook it in, made of iron or steel, which must have no more than 5 or 6 cm of depth. The diameter depends on the number of diners. It can go from 10 cm to 90 cm. Another particularity is that the long handle has been replaced by two ears. So when the word paella is mentioned, it may mean the dish, it may mean the frying pan!

The history of paella takes us back to when rice was first imported in Europe, it may have been brought by the Romans, though some historians believe rice appeared in Spain before, imported by the Moors.

However things improved during the period when the Moors occupied the south of Spain, the irrigation systems brought by the Romans improved which in turn boosted the cultivation of rice. But that's not the only contribution the Moors made to the Spanish gastronomy, they brought with them saffron also, another of Paella's key ingredients.

When the Moors were expelled from Spain, rice was considered rather a vulgar cereal, as unprocessed it was very rough, and even though the Spanish had knowledge of growing it, it wasn't a popular crop.

However it is believed that it reappeared in kitchens during the 16th century, basically people prepared their food with whatever elements they had at hand, and we have reference of rice culture and the existence of paella in Valencia in the 16th century. In fact it was already a famous dish replicated in other regions of the country. However it hadn't gotten its name yet, and the dish was mentioned as Valencian rice. Paella would enter the Spanish language in Spain a couple of centuries later.

Spain's gastronomy developed according to the people's needs and availability of ingredients. It's hard to define the true "paella recipe" as the varieties are as assorted as the families that made them. Originally it was prepared with chicken and/ or rabbit and vegetables, but in the coast areas they added fish and shellfish to the mix, and other ingredients were added, such as sausages or chorizo.

Some purists will argue that there is only one way to make Valencian paella, but others say that it's true paella as long as it has the key ingredients. However there are some recognized variants, such as "paella marinera" (marine paella) which goes without most of the vegetable ingredients and replaces meat with fish, shellfish and other sea products and uses fish broth instead of pure water. Another example is "paella mixta" which mixes chicken and rabbit meat with seafood.This variant is popular in other regions of Spain but in Valencia it's hardly consumed.

From its beginnings paella has been a dish that gathers families and friends, or entire towns to celebrate events, and although it's mainly a dish for festivities, you will find the original and traditional paella in most restaurants in the region.

Paella Valenciana | Valencian Paella


Ingredients (for four portions):

  • 500 grams of Spanish rice
  • 800 grams of chopped chicken
  • 600 grams of chopped rabbit
  • 250 grams of wide green beans
  • 200 grams of large white lima beans
  • 100 grams of crushed or grated tomato
  • 150 cc of olive oil
  • Fresh saffron strands, if not available you can use another food dye. It won't be the same though!
  • 1 tbs of paprika
  • Salt
  • Fresh rosemary if possible, but dry if fresh is not available
  • 1 litre of water


  • First level the paella (pan) so the rice will be evenly distributed. Pour some olive oil and put the paella down, the oil must pool in the center. Once it's leveled, light the fire and wait till it's very hot
  • Spread the oil throughout the paella with a spreader. Add the chicken and rabbit with salt to taste. The bigger pieces go in the center and the smaller pieces closer to the edge, in this way we avoid burning any of them. Turn the pieces over until they are browned all over. This must be a slow process, without rushing. The secret of a good paella is that the meat is properly fried!
  • Once the meat is well browned, remove it from the center towards the edges (where the heat is less intense). Add the wide green beans to the center of the paella. The green beans must be properly fried too, they take less time than the meat, and we must turn it over constantly as not to burn them.
  • When the green beans are done we add the crushed tomato (natural, not canned). As before, we push the friend beans towards the exterior and place the tomatoes in the center. Saute until the tomato has released all its liquid.
  • Once all these ingredients are ready stir the contents to spread them well in the paella. Add the paprika and stir quickly so it doesn't burn.
  • In paella the amount of water should double the amount of rice, so if we use 500 grams of rice we should use 1 liter of water, in any case the water should cover all the ingredients
  • Add the saffron strands or food dye and the lima beans. Check salt and add more if necessary, no more salt should be added after the rice.
  • Once the broth reaches boiling point, let it boil for 5 minutes at high heat and then simmer at low heat for 40 minutes
  • After the 40 minutes we turn the heat up again and add the rice evenly in the paella. Instead of measuring, the expert make a cross like shape that about 1 finger higher than the paella. Cook for 5 minutes at high heat, then 5 at medium heat and then for 8-10 minutes at minimum heat. In total the rice cooks in 18 to 20 minutes, it should never be more than this even if there's still some broth, as the rice will overcook.

It's traditional to let the paella stand for a few minutes, but it also serves a purpose. If the rice is still hard it will get more cooked, and if there's too much broth, it will soak in the rice

If you want to get very traditional, the paella is eaten straight out of the paella with wooden spoons!