David Scott AllenFish & SeafoodMain CourseProvencal RecipesTaste

Learning to Cook Paella

You are correct if you think paella is not a typical French recipe. The origins of this rice-based dish are certainly Spanish, from the Valencia region. However, as with many culinary traditions, recipes have evolved and travelled within Europe and beyond. Most markets in Provence have at least one vendor who makes and sells paella, starting the recipe from scratch at market opening around 8-8:30 and typically selling out well before the market close.

Paella Markets in Provence

Making Paella

In Sevilla last year, Mark and I took a paella class with Fernando from Sevilla Food. Okay, paella didn’t originate in Sevilla (it’s from Valencia, actually). Still, it is enjoyed nationwide, encouraging us to seek an excellent tutorial on making traditional and authentic paella. Everything about the experience was fantastic: meeting Fernando, who was knowledgeable, warm, kind, and good-natured, and making new friends with Matt and Karmyn from Ohio, who also attended the class. And the location? — a rooftop terrace with a perfect view of the Sevilla cathedral and its Giralda tower. Please look at the original Cocoa & Lavender post for photos of Sevilla and our class.

Paella Negra

Paella Negra with Squid Ink

David Scott Allen | Cocoa & Lavender
Paella is easy to make and a good option for an interactive dinner party. This version includes squid ink to create the "negra" black rice.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Spanish
Servings 6 people



  • Olive Oil
  • 4 large Calamari Tubes sliced into 3/8-inch rings
  • 1 lb Large Shrimp approximately 3 per person, depending on size
  • 8 oz Cooked Mussels weight without the shells
  • 1 small White Onion peeled and minced
  • 3 cups bomba rice see notes below
  • 1 large Tomato grated (or finely chopped)
  • 16 grams squid ink 4 packets
  • 1 cup White Wine
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 5 cups Fish and/or Seafood Broth
  • Sea Salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh Parsley chopped
  • Lemon Wedges


  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 14-inch skillet or paella pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the calamari rings and sauté for just a minute or two, stirring, then remove from the pan and set aside. Add the shrimp to the pan (and more olive oil if needed), season with salt, and sauté until just turning pink on both sides. When the shrimp are almost pink on both sides, add the cooked mussel meats to warm them and coat them with some oil. Remove the shrimp and mussels from the pan and set them aside with the calamari rings.
  • Add more olive oil as needed, and sauté the onions until transparent. Next, add the rice, and stir well until it is fully coated with oil. Now, unlike risotto, you are not looking for the rice to be opaque.
  • Add the grated tomato and stir well. Squeeze in the squid ink and stir to distribute evenly. Add the wine, then spread the rice evenly around the pan. Then, increase the heat to medium-high and carefully pour in the chicken and seafood broth to avoid disturbing the rice. Season with salt and pepper, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, undisturbed. Paella is never stirred. (In my previous attempts, that was my first of three common mistakes: while cooking paella is cooking, do not stir it, do not cover it, and do not put it in the oven).
  • As the paella cooks, the broth will reduce, and you will be looking for the moment when the surface of the rice is looking reasonably dry, and you hear a faint crackling sound and see little holes of steam dotted around the top. You can test the bottom to see if the socarrat (crust) is forming. There is a fine line between socarrat and burning, so be careful!
  • Evenly distribute the seafood on top of the paella, turn off the heat, and cover tightly with aluminium foil. Let it sit for five minutes. Uncover, sprinkle the top with chopped parsley, and serve at the table with lemon wedges.


Socarrat - The layer of toasted rice at the bottom of a paella.
You may read that you can use arborio rice instead of Bomba rice, but I have found the results are very different. The arborio rice gets quite gummy compared to the Bomba rice.
If you get a 1-pound bag of Bomba rice, it will be about 2 1/4 cups. You can use this and adjust the liquid accordingly (a total of 6 1/2 cups liquid), or open a second bag to get 3 cups of the rice.
Squid ink is not easy to find in most stores but can be found online. Mine is Spanish and came in 4-gram packets. (I use four packets for a batch of Paella Negra.)
Squid ink stains — they call it ink for a good reason!
For my seafood, I used shrimp, calamari, and mussels. Those are what we saw being used in Spain, but you can change them up to meet your taste.
Keyword Mussels, Paella, Rice, Shrimp
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Paella Provence Village Festivals

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A tasteful seafood recipe that can be served as a first course or light main course with a salad.
Check out this recipe
Seared Scallops with Asian Flavours



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David Scott Allen

David Scott Allen

David Scott Allen is the author, photographer, and cook behind Cocoa & Lavender, a weekly food blog based in Tucson, Arizona. Passionate about travel, he especially enjoys eating traditional foods and learning local customs, whether in the United States or around the globe.

David's first trip to France took place when he was 14, and he returned as often as possible thereafter. However, it wasn't until his 50th birthday that he finally made it south to Provence. The beauty, history, charm, warmth, cuisine, and - of course - the rosé wines captured his heart. He shares his Provençal recipes here on Perfectly Provence, and his food and wine pairings monthly on the Provence WineZine.

David is a firm believer that sharing a meal with friends around the table is one of life's greatest pleasures. And if it happens to be in Provence, all the better!

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