This Weeknight Paella requires only 10 minutes of hands-on work and lands on your table 30 minutes later. Its spectacular flavors will brighten any meal!
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My favorite trick to make sure I can get dinner on the table, fast, every night is to keep a list of go-to weeknight recipes displayed on the refrigerator. I continuously add to it whenever I try a new recipe and everyone loves it. The dish gets bonus points if it can be made in advance and produces leftovers.
I cook for a living, which means we often have leftovers to enjoy for dinner, but on some nights, nothing’s lined up. Those are the days my do-to list comes in handy. Because I make these recipes so often, I very often have everything on hand to whip them up. I keep a variety of fresh veggies in the fridge, jars of different rice varieties in the pantry, and basic meats and seafood in the freezer. These ingredients help me assemble dinner in no time.
This Weeknight Paella is one of my family’s favorite dishes. Now I know associating the words “weeknight” and “paella” could be considered heresy, but I thought it sounded more appealing than “Spanish-Style Rice Dish.” I call it a paella because it uses ingredients usually associated with the dish: saffron, garlic, tomatoes, shrimp, chorizo, and chicken all contribute to pile on the flavor in record time.
Making this Weeknight Paella takes 40 minutes from start to finish, most of it hands-off, and produces 6 generous servings. Paella is one of those dishes that develops even more flavor as it sits, so leftovers are just as delightful—dare I say, even more flavorful—than when the dish is freshly made. It’s a spectacular weeknight meal and an unfussy dish to serve to company.
Helpful Tips for Making Weeknight Paella
Pick the right rice variety:“Paella rice” is short-grain Spanish rice that cooks to a firm, sticky bite. Common varieties include Bomba, Valenciano, and Calasparra. The difference between paella rice and risotto rice is that risotto rice releases more starch, creating a “creamy” result upon cooking. You wouldn’t usually want that creamy result for paella, but if you’re short on paella rice or can’t find it, you can substitute an Italian short-grain variety in a pinch. Because you’re not stirring the rice as it cooks (contrary to risotto), the result is close enough and certainly just as delicious.
Indulge in that pinch of saffron: Using saffron in a weeknight dish may seem incredibly indulgent, but it’s a spice I like to always keep on hand: a little saffron goes a very long way when it comes to building flavor. If you don’t have saffron on hand, substitute turmeric for an equally colorful result.
Go spicy or mild: Chorizo sausage adds a nice little kick to this paella, but if you (or the kids you’ll serve this to!) prefer a milder-tasting dish, you can substitute crumbled Italian sausage.
Combine the chicken stock and saffron in a small saucepan and place over low heat. Do not let it come to a boil--you only want to warm up the stock and infuse it with the saffron.
In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until crisp. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the rice, paprika, salt, and some ground black pepper and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the saffron-infused broth and diced tomatoes. Bring to a low simmer, cover, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.
Tuck in the shrimp, cover, and cook for 5 minutes more. Stir in the frozen peas, cover again, and cook for 5 minutes more. If you notice the rice seems dry through the cooking process, you can add up to 1/2 cup (125 ml) more chicken stock to loosen it, though you should know that paella is a dryer and stiffer rice dish than risotto.
Stir in the cooked chicken, parsley, and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Serve immediately.
STORAGE: Store leftover weeknight paella in an airtight container, then refrigerate for up to 3 days.
NOTE:"Paella rice" is short-grain Spanish rice that cooks to a firm, sticky bite. Common varieties include Bomba, Valenciano, and Calasparra. The difference between paella rice and risotto rice is that risotto rice releases more starch, creating a “creamy” result upon cooking. You wouldn’t usually want that creamy result for paella, but if you’re short on paella rice or can’t find it, you can substitute an Italian short-grain variety in a pinch. Because you’re not stirring the rice as it cooks (contrary to risotto), the result is close enough and certainly just as delicious.
Did you make this?
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