Everyday Paella #2: Chorizo and Olive

January 24, 2012 · 8 comments

Lately I’ve been making paella on weeknights.  Not so much the elaborate mixed seafood paellas that I love for summer entertaining, but simpler, humbler dishes that have more in common with a casserole from my childhood than a plateau de fruits de mer at Balthazar or La Coupole.  My favorite chicken paella is still in heavy rotation, but this dish has become a close rival.

The bold flavors of olives and chorizo –a Spanish cured pork sausage flavored with smoked paprika and garlic– blend beautifully with rice, saffron and peppers to create a delicious and comforting dish for a cold day.  A simple green salad is all you need to complete the meal.  Of course, chorizo is probably not something one should eat every day, but its big flavor allows a little to go a long way:  a half pound in this recipe (supported by a quarter pound of ham) serves 6-8 people.

The dish is also quick and simple to make, and forgiving.  You need to be precise with the quantities of rice and liquid, but beyond that, the ingredients could be measured by the pinch or handful, and you’d be fine, as long as you taste for salt along the way. Similarly, there’s nothing tricky about the cooking time (which is something I used to worry about with paella):  just remember to transfer the dish from the stove to the oven when it’s the texture of loose risotto, and to pull it out of the oven when the rice is on the firm side of al dente, like a risotto that’s not quite ready to serve.  You can then let it rest covered with foil until the rice is cooked to the firmness you like.

Just three more notes from this paella advocate before I give you the recipe:  1) you don’t need a paella pan to make good paella — a large skillet or shallow casserole will do nicely; 2) you don’t need to buy imported Spanish rice –domestic or imported Arborio rice used to make risotto works very well; and 3) saffron is worth its high price, but you can make a very good paella without it, including this one.


(adapted from Chorizo and Olive Paella “Santa Clara” in Paella! by Penelope Casas, serves 6-8).


4 tablespoons coarsely chopped green olives (Spanish, if you can find them, but any good green olive will be delicious)

4 tablespoons coarsely chopped cured black olives (not canned — I like to use Moroccan oil-cured olives here)

About 1/2 cup (120ml) dry white wine

6 cups (1.4l) chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon thread saffron

About 8 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound (230g) chorizo, preferably sweet, skinned and cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) slices

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped (ribs and seeds removed)

1/4 pound (110g) Spanish serrano ham or prosciutto, cut into 1/4 inch (1/2cm) slices and then diced

4 tablespoons minced parsley

3 cups (700ml) Spanish short grain rice (such as Calasparra) or Arborio rice

Salt to taste

About 2 dozen snow or snap peas (or about a cup of frozen peas)


1.  Put the olives and the wine in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.  Simmer for about 5 minutes and drain, reserving the olives.

2.  Combine the saffron and the stock in a saucepan.  Bring just to the boil and then keep hot over the lowest heat.

3.  Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).

4.  In a paella pan measuring 17-18 inches at its widest point (or a skillet or shallow casserole of similar size), heat the oil for about a minute and then add the chorizo and sauté for about another minute.

5.  Add the onion, garlic, pepper, ham and parsley and sauté until the pepper is tender, about 3 minutes.

6.  Add the reserved olives and the rice, stirring well to coat the rice with the pan mixture.

7.  Pour in the hot stock and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.  Continue to boil until the rice is no longer soupy but has the texture of a loose risotto, about 5 minutes.  Taste for salt and stir in the snap peas.

8.  Transfer to the oven and cook, uncovered, until the rice is on the firm side of al dente, about 12-15 minutes.  Remove the paella to a warm spot, cover it with foil and let it rest 5-10 minutes until the rice is cooked to taste.

Serve immediately.  The dish also reheats well — just spoon what you plan to heat into a skillet and heat on the stovetop.  If you’re lucky it will reward you with a toasty brown crust on the bottom.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan January 24, 2012 at 1:35 am

paella with chorizo and olives!! can’t wait to make this

Nick UK January 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Trying this tonight, since the last one is very popular chez nous.

cnordquist January 26, 2012 at 8:03 am

Thanks, Nick. I’m glad the chicken paella’s become a favorite. How did this one go over?

Nick UK January 26, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Another hit, I used peas instead of mange tout, and only green olives, since I had them already, but all 3 children loved it too. I made about 2/3 quantity which was just right for 5 of us. Whats next?

Juanjo August 5, 2013 at 11:29 am

I’m spanish. If you come to Spain and make this paella for spanish customers you will end in the bottom of the nearest river.

Boychek64 January 18, 2014 at 11:08 am

This sound like a great recipe, with some minor tweaks for a vegetarian. One thing I noticed however, was a lack of spices. I’m going to create a homemade dried spice mixture including saffron, paprika, cayenne pepper, ground cumin and coriander, maybe even one clove, then throw in some bay leaves. Look forward to trying!

Christopher Nordquist January 18, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Adding your spice mix sounds like a great idea for your vegetarian version of this dish. Chorizo is quite spicy, so in the carnivore’s version of this dish, a lot of the flavor comes from the sausage. Let me know how it turns out! Thanks. DD

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