When does Paella become Risotto?

The joys of cooking with wine are myriad. However for the devil-may-care, bon viveur pitfalls are never too far away. Take for example this week’s creation. Simple Paella.

What can go wrong? Rice, chicken, stock – easy right? No. The main issue is over-exuberance with the vino. Lets try and identify the critical mistakes that effectively turned paella into risotto!


  • Paella rice
  • Chicken stock
  • Garlic
  • White wine
  • Smoked paprika
  • Onion
  • Chopped chicken
  • King prawns
  • Small scallops
  • Chestnut mushrooms
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Red pepper

Now how easy is this? Chop and fry the garlic and onion gently in the butter and oil and then add chopped pepper and mushrooms.

His ‘n’ Hers vegetables.

Once softened add the risotto rice and fry for a minute; then add a glass of wine – not half a bottle – guess what I did – yes I added half a bottle because I got confused about what I was making.

I was making paella but thinking risotto. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m no Keith Floyd (honest I’m not) but I might need to think a bit more about what I’m doing rather than just ‘winging it’.

Why do you have spoons in there? You’re not going to stir that are you?

Once the glass of wine is absorbed add the stock and the chicken, the prawns and scallops and the paprika (you can also add saffron to be more authentic but this a) is expensive and b) can over-power the dish so use sparingly). Then add stock and leave.

Oh dear stirring chicken into the rice – wrong!

That’s right don’t stir. A genuine paella is supposed to develop a crust on the bottom. You can smell it start to crisp (and if you leave it too long, burn). At this point, remove from the heat and cover to allow any remaining liquid to be absorbed.

Paprika – looks pretty but it should have been in there ages ago

Unlike risotto, Paella is relatively dry – it is not supposed to be as creamy. However if you throw a barrel of chardonnay in there its going to get creamy and effectively become indistinguishable from its Italian cousin.

And then if you start bunging ingredients in willy-nilly without due consideration to the traditional approach you end up with a soggy bottom rather than a crusty one. Also its supposed to be golden (from the saffron/paprika):

Paella – or is it Risotto.

I will try again one day. Might get a proper paella pan. A big one.

8 thoughts on “When does Paella become Risotto?

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