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Learning To Cook Valencian Paella

Heading to Spain, there was one thing I knew I wanted to try. Paella! Originating in Valencia, I decided to make a trip down the coast and take a class to learn how to make the original Valencian Paella.

The first time I tried Paella was at one of my bride's wedding that I was photographing. They both loved Spain and decided to serve Paella as their main course. I remember it containing mussels, clams, shrimp, and andouille sausage. So many different flavors that all mixed together really well.

Upon arriving in Valencia, I learned the original Paella, wasn’t seafood but made of chicken, rabbit, snails and four kinds of beans. A stark contrast to the seafood creations I’ve had.


First up was a market tour at Mercado Central de Valencia where we purchased all the ingredients. We learned the best way to get the most flavor is for each piece of meat to have a bit of bone in it. We also went to purchase saffron and learned about the different qualities and the best one to use. This recipe also calls for four types of beans, FOUR! Each brings its unique flavor to the dish.


Our teacher had us pair up in teams. Instead of showing us how to cook with us just watching, he talked us through it having use do each step of the process. Each team used a 16-inch diameter pan to create the dish. I thought it would be a lot for two people to finish, but we had no problem polishing it off, snails and all!

To make the dish, we first made the broth from scratch in the pan, then added ingredients with a few fun techniques that are explained in the recipe. After adding the rice and waited for the paella to finish we were served plenty of wine with mussels.

After our creations were complete, we went outside for an epic picture and then sat down to taste the results of our labor. Surprisingly everyone’s paella tasted different. We all used the same ingredients, but some may have used a little less or more salt or cooked their broth just a little bit longer or shorter. Just these little tweaks made a huge difference in flavor. All of them tasted really good!

When I make paella in the future, I know no two will ever taste the same. Now that I have the base for making paella I can branch out and create my own. I can make it with traditional meat, using local seafood, or creating an amazing vegetarian version. This recipe is one that doesn’t follow strict rules.


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