08 Jun2008


We cook paella in the Marketman household at least once a month, on aveage. It is one of our “easy entertaining dishes” that almost always comes out brilliantly and can feed up to 20+ guests for the largest paellera we have in the house. It is relatively easy to do, yet is so festive and perfect for a large lunch or dinner party. There are hundreds of recipes for paella out there, and I think the keys to an excellent paella are the rice (ideally Spanish short grain such as Bomba or Callasparra), the intensity of flavoring (sofrito, aromatics, saffron, liquids such as broth, wine, etc.) and the meats, veggies and seafood. I have moved away from recreating the more “authentic” recipes of the Spanish woods and fields, that probably usually had rabbit and snails, and have evolved into a Filipinized or internationalized paella, most of the time. I have done posts on a Paella a la Marketman (closer to a Valenciana style paella), and a terrific Arroz Negro (this took me several tries to do right) post. For me, the key lies in the sofrito in the tomato based paellas…


The recipe for sofrito is detailed as part of this earlier post on paella, but essentially it is a whole lot of white onions, sliced thinly and sauteed in olive oil for a couple of hours or so until possibly reduced to 1/10th the original volume and packing a flavor punch all on their own. To these incredible caramelized onions, I add lots of garlic, tons of saffron and eventually, canned plum tomatoes and this is reduce some more. With an immersion blender, this concoction is made into something that looks a bit like mushy baby food. This can be used in the paella if you are making it the same day. But what we like to do is make a double or triple batch and freeze the rest so that making the next paella or two doesn’t require this lengthy sofrito process. I know many of you will roll your eyes at this effort, but as with many good things, they come to those who are willing to wait… and the waiting in this case results in superior depth of flavor.


Besides the sofrito, I now also add a cup or so of white wine when making a tomato based paella, as it adds another layer of flavor and richness to the dish. I realize lots of folks have lots of “secrets” to their special paella. This sofrito version has no tricks… it is just pure slow cooked goodness that infuses the paella and makes it extra special…



  1. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    Hi MM, hope you’re all having a blast and can’t wait for your chronicle.

    Where do your source your Bomba or other short grain spanish rice in Manila?

    Jun 8, 2008 | 7:19 am


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  3. linda says:

    Yesterday I went to Davis Jones foodhall and looked for Calasparra rice for my paella and the price for 1 kg of this rice was $13.95.With hesitation I still bought it kasi I promised a friend that for the potluck party I’ll bring a paella dish.It was one of the best paellas I have ever made!

    Jun 8, 2008 | 10:10 am

  4. Lex says:

    Gourdo’s and its sister stores in major malls used to carry Arroz Bomba but the prices were prohibitive. It was almost 700 pesos for a kilo. It took forever to sell since not too many people may have been willing to buy them. They never carried it again since. I am sure it makes superior paella. Try going to Terry’s Food Selections in Pasong Tamo, and Podium. they carry the widest selection of Spanish imports.

    Jun 8, 2008 | 10:24 am

  5. Marketman says:

    Artisan, Terry’s does sometimes carry bomba or callasparra, but it is erratic. The last time we were in Spain, I sent several kilos of bomba back in a balikbayan box. That lasted about a year…

    Jun 8, 2008 | 11:40 am

  6. Hatari says:

    I have just recently started making paella at home, following years of ‘ordering’ it from my Mom. Just over a month go, I bought a paellera and the burner from Terry’s and gave it a try. I was also told by my Mom about the importance of the sofrito. It took me a few tries and folks at home were starting to get ‘Paella mad,’ with extras sent to neighbors and relatives.

    Now I find myself in Spain and have spent a few days in Barcelona, Madrid and am now in Seville. The paellas here are definitely different…..tasty, moist and redolent with seafood, meat or some other secret flavor input I’ve yet to decipher, depending on whether it is mariscos, mixta or legumbres on the table. While I grew up convinced it was also the sofrito, I am now tending to think the broth has more to do with it. It makes me feel like going home and running up some other recipe options again….something I am looking forward to. Thanks for the post MM.

    Jun 8, 2008 | 12:23 pm

  7. Marketman says:

    Hatari, could it be a serious abundance of saffron or saffron powder? I find that putting a LOT of saffron makes a huge taste difference. And yes, try this a little “wetter” than the Pinoy versions. Homemade broth is ideal as well. Lately, I have tried adding wine to the mixture and that helps to add to the complexity…

    Jun 8, 2008 | 12:31 pm

  8. sister says:

    You might try making homemade chicken stock in addition to the sofrito for superior flavour. I start with 10 kilos of stewing hens chopped up, cleaned and gently simmered with 5 quarts of water to cover and 2 tbsp. coarse salt for 3 hours, skim religiously, then add 1/2 kilo diced onions, 1/4 kilo sliced leeks, 1/2 kilo diced carrots and 1/4 kilo diced celery, 1 tbsp peppercorns crushed and 2 tbsp. fresh thyme. Simmer another hour. Cool for 2 hours and strain through a chinoise sieve. You should have about 4 quarts of concentrated chicken stock that can be frozen in quart sized containers.
    Furthermore, serve paella immediately, do not prepare hours in advance expect for prepping the ingredients and making the stock and the sofrito.
    Calasparra or Bomba rice is available at Zabars or Fairway in NYC for about $4. a kilo.

    Jun 8, 2008 | 8:58 pm

  9. Gilda says:

    Is “bomba” rice the same or similar to arborio rice? I think I’ve seen it at Santi’s in Green Hills while I was there this past February. I live in Dallas, and most supermarkets have it readily available on their shelves.

    MM, your paella seems to be sort of a combination of paella as we know it: with all the different meats and veggies combined, and risotto, because it is “wetter” than the traditional paella. But who knows exactly what “traditional paella” is? I suspect paella in Spain is like adobo to Filipinos: lots of versions of it, depending on who’s cooking it and from what region you are from.

    I use the paella recipe I found in Taunton’s fine Cooking Magazine, July 1999. It’s delicious!

    Jun 8, 2008 | 9:54 pm

  10. cooking mama says:

    you forgot the paprika bilbao. it packs a lot of flavor not to mention giving your paella the real paella kick.

    Jun 8, 2008 | 11:02 pm

  11. fried-neurons says:

    Make sure to use real saffron, not the fake kind used to color arroz caldo (which is actually safflower aka kasubha).

    Jun 9, 2008 | 2:23 am

  12. Hatari says:

    Great flavor suggestions from everyone. I have a few days left and will certainly get as much saffron/ saffron powder as I can get my hands on. Home made broth is certainly going to be a home run suggestion as well although barring airline weight restrictions, I am also tempted to get a few cartons of what they’re calling paella broth (not likely, I’ll be able to do this though…as my wife also has a long shopping list before we go home). The paprika, I’m also going to give a try. The other possibility I am looking at is using the cured fatback I’ve seen a lot of hanging in the charcuterias…looks like liempo but salt cured and (I think) smoked – I found a piece in my Paella madrilena and the flavor helped bind the dish.

    At home, I found that putting the chorizo in the sofrito, broth or rice somehow sucks the flavor out of the sausage as the paella simmers. I found that sweating the sliced chorizo in the pan then removing it before the sofrito and rice and then adding it back just before the dish completely cooks preserved the sausage flavor and texture best…maybe the paprika will help give a booster shot, I don’t know. I am excited about experimenting.

    Jun 10, 2008 | 5:17 am

  13. quiapo says:

    Hola Hatri
    If the flavour is “sucked out” of the chorizo then it must go into the sofrito, so it depends where you want the flavour. If you want falvour bursts in th paella, whcy dont you just add some extra chorizo sliced thinly when yu put back the fish?

    Jun 10, 2008 | 11:00 am

  14. Hatari says:

    Hola Quiapo.

    Yes I suppose it goes into the sofrito but then I have pieces of chorizo scattered around the paella which have become tasteless and a bit chewy. Maybe I should peel the chorizo, disperse the filling some more instead of just slicing the links. Thanks.

    Jun 10, 2008 | 2:09 pm

  15. quiapo says:

    Kumusta Hatari
    There is a paste called sobreasada which is meant by the Spanish to be smeared on bread slices and grilled; it makes a delicious topping but I sometimes use it for flavoring afritada – it has a rich paprika taste not unlike chorizo bilbao, but a bit more spicy. i understand it is available in Manila, and perhaps may be suited for your purpose, after experimenting not to overdo it.
    I find that a stock of prawn heads, and the use of charcoal- grilled red pimentos make a big difference.

    Jun 10, 2008 | 2:16 pm

  16. quiapo says:

    My wife and I were once invited to a dinner by a couple from Spanish Africa – Ceuta, and their delicious paella had some hot chili added to it; an interesting variation which I occasionally prepare.

    Jun 10, 2008 | 2:35 pm

  17. mylene says:

    Hi Marketman,
    Thank you for a wonderful article about your paella version. Why do we need to simmer and reduce the sofrito to almost paste like consistency then add stock again. What is the difference versus putting everything together? I apologize for such and ignorant question but I’m just learning how to cook paella. I really enjoy reading you posts.


    Jun 11, 2008 | 10:23 pm

  18. Marketman says:

    mylene, the flavors are concentrated and intensified as you cook down the sofrito… it provides a different impact than just adding things together. There is a method to the madness of the technique. Just try it as described and you will see the difference. I usually try to avoid flavor shortcuts, though I do sometimes use them. :)

    Jun 12, 2008 | 5:17 am

  19. zena says:

    Artisan Chocolatier, the resto La Tienda along Polaris St., Makati, sells rice for paella and other stuff. The price was reasonable too.

    Jun 13, 2008 | 6:17 pm

  20. mgr says:

    Sorry but as what they say in Top Chef..”that is not paella”. Paella has no wine whatsoever or ‘reduced onions’. Yes, I’m very critical of this dish. It happens in our family too, my sisters always over-dump ingredients and techniques to certain dishes that it just becomes too rich and overpowering in flavor. You have done other fantastic dishes but I have to disagree with this one. Sorry.

    Jun 16, 2008 | 2:06 pm

  21. Marketman says:

    mgr, I am sure Top Chef has its opinion, but so do the different spanish cookbooks, and several describe a sofrito very close to this one. So while it may not rate high on a top chef discussion, I would tend to give some credence to a bunch of Spanish cookbook authors… In the end, its the taste that triumphs and all recipes do evolve, so I would go with what works for you…

    Jun 16, 2008 | 9:00 pm

  22. Marketman says:

    mgr, a follow-up to your comment. I didn’t search the internet for on-line recipes before I made my original paella recipe, but I did just after reading your comment. While my recipe is based mostly on spanish cookbooks, it is interesting to see what is on the net as well:

    1. From paellapans.com, their version with sofrito, with a huge amount of onions reduced.
    2. From Finecooking.com, a sofrito made with onions, tomatoes and garlic.
    3. From The Almanac, a Spanish chef from the restaurant Iberia describes one of his keys to paella, a sofrito with slowly cooked onions.
    4. And here, tips from a recipe of spanish Chef and author of a tapas cookbook, yet another take on the sofrito with onions

    I am sure there are lots of other sites WITHOUT onions in the sofrito, but it certainly doesn’t seem like an outlier of an idea. :)

    Jun 16, 2008 | 9:06 pm

  23. Emily says:

    Hi MM, I just made a huge batch of sofrito yesterday and it turned out very well with my paella.
    How do you use the batches you’ve frozen? Do you let it thaw first in the fridge? at room temperature? zap it in the microwave? dump it frozen on the rice and let it melt in the pan?

    Jun 16, 2008 | 11:04 pm

  24. mgr says:

    Yes, I agree with the sofrito being used and I see where you’re coming from in researching the classic paella. But what I’m trying to get at is by concocting different versions of it doesn’t produce the ‘classic’ paella. I’m sure many followers in this blog will like it. It’s not different from loving the Filipino version of the ensaymada vs. the Spanish version…or red hotdogs in spaghetti for that matter. Just my thoughts…

    Jun 17, 2008 | 12:30 am


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