This vegetarian paella is filled with mediterranean vegetables; zucchinis, onion, garlic, bell pepper and the famous smokey paprika from Spain (pimentón de la Vera). Paella is a great dish, you can make it with whatever you feel like, the base though usually stays the same, the sofrito, which is fried onion in olive oil and garlic and the pulp from a tomato, you let it reduce and this is the main base for any paella.
In Spain, they say 1 out of 100 paellas are made with saffron… because of it’s price, instead they use paprika, coloring powder or the paste of dried capsicums (ñora, choricero and piquillo). Those four dried peppers are the base to the famous paprika (pimentón), the ñora and choricero are sweet and quite similar in taste, the Mediterranean coast uses more the ñora, which is rounder, while the west uses the choricero, a long and sweet pepper. The Piquillo is a mildly spicy one, and the guindilla is the spicy one which gives the spicy touch to some types of paprika.
When I first moved to Spain, I thought their food, especially paprika, would be spicy and I’ve realised rapidly that isn’t the case. Spaniards aren’t big fan of spicy things, their traditional food is filled with paprika, but even if they use the spiciest of their paprika, you won’t feel much heat from it. They like the smoked paprika though, this smokey flavor is quite present in their cuisine. This special “smokey paprika” is called ” pimentón de la Vera, a D.O. denomination of origin in the region of Extremadura and it’s a whole new type of spice from the previous one (paprika). The normal pimentón (paprika) is dried in the sun, while this “pimentón de la Vera” dried in a smoke house with oak and acorn wood. The process must be done really slowly, from 10 to 15 days, and it’s done with different peppers from the normal paprika, also 3 categories; dulce, agridulce, picante (sweet- bittersweet- spicy). So the paprika world is a whole world of it’s own in Spain, and I highly recommend you to try out the famous “pimentón de la Vera” for your paellas. It give this distinct flavour to it, as if it would have been done on a campfire (like the original paella).
Just as a side note… I’ve done the zucchini separately because in the broth it would just become soft and unpleasant, this way (frying it at first), you get the crunch and full flavor of the zucchini.
Let’s make this vegetarian paella!
Makes 4 portions
- 400g of bomba rice
- 800ml of vegetable broth (warm)
- 1 zucchini cut into long sticks
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 bell pepper sliced
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 tomato cut into 2
- 1 tbsp of pimenton de la Vera (paprika) the type you prefer, I like the agridulce one
- 100ml of white wine *optional
- olive oil
- little rosemary branch *optional
- salt and pepper
- Start by frying up in olive oil the zucchini in the pan, high heat, add salt and pepper and reserve
- Lower the heat to low and add more olive oil, the finely chopped onion and salt
- Let the onion soften, for a few minutes (5 minutes, no need to make them totally soft)
- Add the garlic and grate the inside of the tomato (check picture)
- Let the tomato juice become paste then make a well in the center, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and the rice and mix
- Add the warm broth to cover about 1 cm over the rice (keep some broth in case it dries up), rosemary branch, salt and paprika (pimenton de la Vera), mix for a last time
- Add the bell pepper and let simmer strongly, medium high heat for the first 8 minutes
- Then add the zucchini on top and the wine, lower the heat to low and let simmer another 10 minutes without touching it
- When the liquid evaporated, check the coccion of the rice, add broth if needed
- Take off the fire and cover with a clean kitchen towel for a minute or 2, to let the rice absorb all that liquid