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Seafood and Asparagus Paella

Seafood and Asparagus Paella

I love a one-pot meal that also feels extra-special, and paella makes that kind of meal. This Spanish dish of rice, vegetables and meat or seafood packs flavor and simplicity into one skillet. A large pan of paella is festive, colorful and serves a crowd — it’s just right for a celebratory dinner with friends and family. Making the vegetable-and-aromatic sofrito is a key step in cooking paella and acts as the dish’s flavor base. I like a combination of mussels, shrimp and lobster tails in the seafood version of the dish, but you can easily tailor it to your favorite types of seafood.
TIP: In making sofrito, the goal is to soften the vegetables so that they can be blended into a sauce, while also browning them to get caramelized flavor.


Seafood and Asparagus Paella

Special Equipment: 14" heavy duty skillet or paella pan and lid, food processor

Recipe makes 6 to 8 servings. Total time 1 hour and 30 minutes. Active time 45 minutes.


For the sofrito:

  • 1 large red sweet pepper, halved lengthwise with seeds removed
  • 1 medium sweet onion, peeled and quartered 
  • 3 large Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  •  ¼ cup olive oil

For the paella:

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups paella rice (bamba or arborio)
  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus, cut into 2” sections
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined 
  • ½ pound mussels
  • 4 lobster tails
  • 2 cups of sofrito (see above)
  • 1 lemon, cut into ¼” half moons
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice)
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads


    1. For the sofrito: In a 14-inch heavy skillet or paella pan, combine the olive oil, bell pepper, onion, tomatoes and garlic, placing the vegetables cut-side down in the pan. Place over low heat. Use a metal spatula to turn the garlic and move the other vegetables around in the pan without turning them over. The idea is to soften the peppers, onions and tomatoes while also browning the edges to achieve caramelized, rich flavor.
    2. When the garlic is tender and the cut sides of the tomatoes, peppers and onion are blistered and browned, turn off the heat. Use a metal spatula to transfer the vegetables to a food processor. Process into a rough paste. Set the sofrito aside. Leave the remaining oil in the pan for the paella.
    3. For the paella: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    4. Pour the broth into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and add the saffron. Set aside.
    5. Pour the rice into the same pan the sofrito was made in (leave the oil in). Place over low heat and stir to coat the grains in the oil. Add 2 cups of the sofrito and the salt to the rice, stirring constantly to coat the rice and to keep it from sticking. Add the broth to the rice, mixing well to make sure the rice is not sticking to the pan. Add the asparagus and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to simmer. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil and cook for 10 minutes.
    6. After 10 minutes, remove the lid. The rice should be starting to swell, but there should still be broth in the pan. Arrange the shrimp and lobster tails on top of rice. Nestle the mussels into the rice, then place lemon slices on top. Squeeze lemon juice evenly over the shrimp and lobster. Put the lid or foil back on to cover the paella. Place in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Uncover to check the rice to see if it’s tender. If not, cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.
    7. Let the paella rest, covered, for 15 minutes. Top with parsley and serve

    Recipe first featured on Ranch To Table Season 4 Episode 6: "Seafood Paella" on the Magnolia Network.



    Photographs by BJ Golnick and Brian Skope

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