There’s nothing I love more than a recipe that can be made all in one pan. Few understand this as well as the Spanish, who cook the most succulent paellas without dirtying any extra pots or pans. To be honest, I had never eaten a paella before our trip to Madrid this past January, probably because my diet is mainly vegetarian despite the occasional ground beef, chicken and fish dishes. I’m not a big fan of meat and don’t eat seafood, which are two of the staple ingredients that make up most of the Spanish paellas. When we landed at 9pm in Madrid, we were starving and walked around looking for a nice restaurant near our hotel. We stumbled upon a cute restaurant called Marina Ventura, with their speciality being paella. They had all sorts of varieties including a vegetarian one which we immediately ordered. Let me tell you that it was one of the greatest meals I’ve ever had abroad! Served straight from the huge pan, the paella was full of my favorite sautéed vegetables — like broccoli, cauliflower, peas and carrots — and came spiced with saffron and paprika. Jon and I both loved it so much that I promised that I would recreate it as soon as we got home.
Originally from Valencia, paella is a rice dish that is cooked in a special shallow pan that contributes to making the rice crusty on the bottom. All of the vegetables, meat or seafood are cooked in the same pan with the rice, so as to give the rice all the more flavor. Although I got inspired by Marina Ventura’s vegetarian paella, I had no idea had to cook paella. I found a wonderful recipe in the New York Times for a Simple Vegetable Paella, and used it as a guide to recreate the magnificent dish we had in Madrid.
I chose to include red pepper, onion, garlic, carrot, broccoli and peas in my vegetarian paella, but you can use all sorts of other vegetables, such as artichoke, cauliflower and green beans. The key to creating the perfect paella is to sauté your vegetables first on high heat, browning them on each side to bring out the best of their flavor. Once all of your vegetables are well cooked, add the rice, saffron, paprika and vegetable broth and simmer on low heat until fluffy and ready. Pat the rice down with the back of a wooden spatula, increase the heat once again, and leave it for 7 to 10 minutes to create a crust. Make sure to keep an eye on your paella, you don’t want it to burn but just make it a bit more crunchy. Serve the paella straight from the pan topped with fresh parsley and accompanied with lemon wedges. You’ll have no leftovers, guaranteed!
- 2 saffron threads, crushed
- 1 tablespoon warm water
- 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small carrot, diced
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 2 cups long grain rice
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 190g frozen broccoli
- 80g frozen peas
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- Soak the crushed saffron threads in a small bowl with warm water. Set aside to use later when cooking the rice.
- Heat olive oil on medium-high heat in a large skillet or paella pan. Add the onion and red pepper. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrot and sweet paprika and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the rice and saffron. Sauté for 2 minutes until the rice grains begin to crackle and are well coated in the olive oil. Add the vegetable broth to the rice, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes until the rice is cooked through.
- Meanwhile, put the broccoli and a bit of water in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 4 minutes until defrosted and tender. Add the peas in the same bowl and microwave for 1 minute more. Drain and cut the broccoli into small florets.
- When the rice is ready, add the broccoli and the peas. Pat down the rice with the back of a wooden spatula, increase heat to high and let the rice brown on the bottom to form a slight crust, about 7 to 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on the rice so it doesn't burn. Mix the rice, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Serve topped with parsley and accompanied with lemon wedges
CAN BE PREPARED IN ADVANCE: You can cook the paella and serve it a couple of hours later. Reheat it in the skillet before serving.
How did your vegetarian paella come out? Share photos of your recipe on Instagram by tagging #savormania