What exactly is the authentic paella recipe? That’s what many people are wondering.
When you order a paella in the tourist areas of Spain, you often get a ‘paella de marisco.’ This paella contains fish, crustaceans, and shellfish. These paellas look beautiful and richly filled and therefore look good on a nice and sunny terrace.
In reality, Paella de Marisco is only a variant of paella and has little to do with the real paella as it was once born in Valencia.
In this blog post, I will take you to the ingredients that are supposed to be in authentic paella. Did you know that there are only ten? And did you know ‘Paella Valenciana’ has a protected status?
This means that a paella only may have the predicate ‘Paella Valenciana’ if the ten fixed ingredients form the basis of the paella. A little variation is still allowed but the less, the better.
Table of contents
- Paella down to its own success
- Valencians in the uprising
- Sharing knowledge and obtaining recognition
- Ten statements in a manifesto
- Use the right tools
- Select the right heat source
- The ingredients of authentic paella
Paella down to its own success
Every year, many tourists visit Spain and get in touch with paella. After returning home, many would like to bring back that holiday feeling by cooking a paella themselves.
Great fun to do of course, but where to start? And what ingredients should I use? Shrimps and mussels are not always available or rather expensive, so another variant has to be thought of.
So what about Chorizo? After all, that’s also Spanish… Also a fried onion, green peas, maybe some salmon and of course a generous amount of garlic.
And where to find that yellow rice? Let’s try the local supermarket.
After that, using these ingredients, something that should look like a paella is put together.
However, it has absolutely nothing to do with the recipe for authentic paella.
Valencians in the uprising
The tampering with the most exotic ingredients and the emergence of all kinds of unusual variants of paella became more and more annoying for the Valencians.
With disgust, they saw how their paella, which they are so proud of, was being ruined in foreign countries. But when even famous TV chefs joined in with this spoilage of their favorite dish, it was time for action!
In 2014, a group of prominent Valencians, local chefs, and companies from the Valencian region came together and decided that it couldn’t go on like this.
For this reason, they founded the Wikipaella foundation. Through the establishment of Wikipaella, they want to provide clarity in the information about what an authentic paella is. And they want to create clarity about the traditional paella recipe.
Sharing knowledge and obtaining recognition
The Wikipaella foundation pursues two main goals: knowledge and recognition. On their website they describe this as follows:
Passing on knowledge about Paella and other classic rice dishes from the Valencian cuisine as a part of the cultural heritage.
Deepen the knowledge of the history, the nutritional value, the preparation and the way of consuming. As well in smell, taste as in presentation.
Highlighting those companies that prepare authentic paella and rice dishes with respect, professionalism, and love for the dish.
Generating more recognition and distributing related information to keep the culture of the rice dishes alive and open.
Ten statements in a manifesto
Restaurants or other companies that pursue these goals can deserve Wikipaella’s recognition if they commit to the ten values set out in the official manifesto. These values are as follows:
- Authentic paella has its origins in the Valencia region.
- Authentic paella is prepared following the traditions of the Valencia region.
- The best paella is cooked on an open wood fire, with rice from the Valencia region.
- Authentic paella can be cooked and eaten everywhere.
- Authentic paella is everyone’s heritage and no one’s property.
- We defend the values and recipes of paella passed on by our ancestors.
- We publicly report all violations that are made against authentic paella. Especially if they take place in the region of Valencia.
- We cherish the institutions that respect the traditions of paella.
- We encourage the social side of paella as a festive and ceremonial dish.
- We carry paella in our hearts and take it with us wherever we go.
As you can see, the fate of the authentic paella is taken very seriously.
Instead of watching the destruction of authentic paella, action has been taken.
As a result, the right information about paella is now available to everyone. Throughout Europe and North America, there are also representatives who protect this cultural heritage.
Use the right tools
Before we have a closer look at the paella recipe and its ingredients, I’d like to talk about some of the equipment that is used.
Just like a carpenter can’t work without proper tools, a chef can’t do that either. If you want to prepare a paella by yourself, you are the chef, and you probably want to get a great result on the table.
The piece of equipment that is essential to my opinion is the paella pan.
Sure you can work with a frying pan, but you don’t want to. Apart from the fact that it can be done at all (the rice gets mushy quickly) it just doesn’t look nice.
As described in the manifesto of Wikipaella, the presentation is, besides smell and taste, an essential part of the authentic paella. The pan is what makes this presentation complete.
And one more small detail. A lot of Spaniards eat the paella directly from the pan. How socially engaged is that? So make sure that you have the right size paella pan!
Select the right heat source
Next, it is essential that the pan size and the heat source are well matched.
The aim is to heat the paella rice as evenly as possible, so everything is done at the same time.
Do you want to cook paella on a regular cooktop? Then take the size of the burners or the surface of the electric hob into account.
The size of paella pan that is best used for a two-person paella is 34 to
38 centimeters. For three people this is 40 to 42 cm, and for four people 44 to 48 cm is the most suitable.
These formats differ from the specifications given by manufacturers and webshops. There is often indicated that a 30 cm pan is suitable for four people and a 40 cm pan for eight people.
Authentic paella, however, should be nice and thin so that the rice can absorb maximum moisture and a large surface of crispy socarrat can be created on the bottom of the pan. This will not succeed in a pan with a thick layer of rice.
For this reason, we recommend the following measurements:
- Two persons: 34-38 cm
- Three persons: 40-42 cm
- Four people: 44-48 cm
- Six persons: 50 cm
- Eight persons: 55 cm
- Ten people: 60 cm
Cook paella on the hob
If you have a large burner (e.g., a wok burner) on your hob, it should be possible to place a pan of about 30 cm on top of it. All larger sizes are too big for a single burner. In that case, the heat remains far too much in the middle, so the moisture at the edges won’t boil.
In that case, you can do two things:
- You can still prepare the paella on the hob, using multiple burners.
- You can use a different heat source such as an oven, a barbecue (yes, it works!) or a dedicated paella burner on gas.
When you are using more than one burner, you will have to twist the paella every few minutes.
This way, you bring a different part to the boil each time, and you are still able to get reasonably even heating. The moisture can also take a little longer to evaporate.
I use this technique regularly on an induction cooktop. It is a useful way to cook a larger size paella on a regular hob.
It is a matter of looking closely so that all parts of the pan get enough heat and the moisture evaporates evenly.
Cooking paella in the oven
When you choose to cook the paella in the oven, fry all the ingredients on the hob, add the rice and moisture and then put it in the oven.
Do this extremely carefully! After all, the pan is filled with a large amount of boiling liquid.
If you want to prepare the paella this way, first check whether the paella pan fits in the oven properly.
Cooking paella on the grill
Are you not interested in purchasing a special paella burner, but are you still willing to cook paella outside? The old-fashioned grill can be used for this very well.
Merely check the diameter of your grill and buy a pan that is about two inches smaller. This is because some air must still be able to get into the grill so the charcoal will continue to burn properly.
In this way, you can cook everything on the grill, and you can correctly distribute the heat underneath the pan.
Cooking paella on a paella burner
Are you looking for the most professional option in the form of a real paella burner?
Then make sure that the size of the burner and the pan match each other well. Here, too, it is essential that the pan has an optimal heat distribution.
A paella burner often has two fire rings so you can put a smaller and larger pan on it. That gives some extra options.
You also have to take into account that the burner has to be connected to a gas cylinder. You will need this too.
Authentic paella is made with these ingredients
Contrary to the exotic varieties you get in tourist destinations or which are often offered in catering, paella is a straightforward dish.
The authentic paella recipe originated in times of poverty. During those times, paella was usually prepared for survival.
The recipe for an authentic Paella Valenciana consists of only ten different ingredients, which are:..:
- Paella rice
- Ferraura Beans (French beans)
- Garrofon Beans (Valencian white beans)
- Olive oil
Often these ingredients are supplemented with one or more of the following ingredients:
- Pimenton dulce (sweet paprika powder)
- Caracoles (snails)
Pimenton dulce and rosemary are nearly always added.
For the other ingredients, it’s a matter of personal taste as well as testing what you like and what you don’t like.
Looking at the list of ingredients, it is striking that all ingredients are very well available everywhere. Only the local beans can be a problem.
Regular French beans and lima beans can replace these.