I’ve always wanted to make a paella for the site. It’s something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while now. I’m a sucker for rice, in any shape or form. In any recipe, really. My motto is, the more rice the better. Serve it to me every single day for the rest of my life and I’ll be happy as a clam (pun intended). I began brainstorming recipe ideas this past week and for some reason paella kept popping up in my head. Perhaps it was a sign pointing me to make paella, because the time had come for me to finally make this recipe happen. It could’ve been a sign, but really if I’m being honest, it was my stomach doing all of the thinking because I really just wanted an excuse to eat paella this week. Go figure. Anyhow, there I was brainstorming when it hits me, “Jonathan! You should make a paella but create it with a twist because there are a million paella recipes already out there!” Just like that, that’s how it happened. Word for word, and I know what you’re thinking, yes I do talk to myself in first person. It’s what I do.
Aside from talking to myself, I’d also like to point out the fact that it’s currently the third of November. The THIRD of NOVEMBER people!!! Where did the end of October go? This whole time change thing over the weekend has got me all sorts of confused. Sure it’s just one hour of a difference, but still, my mind is taking a bit longer to adjust. I don’t know what is what anymore. The only thing I am sure of is the fact that it’s finally getting chilly here in Los Angeles and all that means is that I get to eat more comfort foods that warm me up inside. Pasta is my favorite comfort food of all. Especially hot pasta baked with lots of cheese. Yes, I’m referring to mac and cheese. Why didn’t you just say that Jonathan?!!? What can I say, I like to be cryptic sometimes.
Okay so this paella pasta salad isn’t served hot and yes I know there’s no cheese involved, so what’s so comforting about it? It’s no mac and cheese, that’s for sure. Well, it is a pasta dish loaded with all of the meats and all of the seafoods. What’s not comforting about that?!?! You tell me! What isn’t comforting about that, huh? Huh? Well? What have you got to say for yourself? This recipe is comforting because it’s pasta mixed with sausage, ham, chicken, shrimp, mussels and clams! It’s so filling that it should be illegal, but not really because I’d really like to eat this until the end of time, and I think you should too.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right from the beginning, so that later on you can’t say I didn’t warn you. This isn’t the easiest of recipes. It’s not necessarily that it’s a complicated recipe, too difficult to make at home, no not at all. On the contrary, it’s not that unachievable, it’s just that there are a lot of steps. A lot of searing and sautéing to be exact. That’ not difficult at all.
Let’ start by browning the chorizo on both sides, until crispy and browned. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle in a bit of olive oil.
**Tip: I used a Spanish chorizo which happens to be already cured, cooked essentially. So we’re just looking to brown it. If you can’t find a Spanish chorizo, just use any other type of smoked or cured sausage you can find. Like a polish kielbasa or something hot and smokey will work here.**
Once crisped, transfer to a plate and throw in the chopped ham. Cook until browned and crispy as well, about 3 to 5 minutes.
**Note: I used a ham steak that I cut into a small dice. You can usually find this by the bacon and/or breakfast sausage.**
Once browned, remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon onto the plate along with the chorizo. Let’s turn our attention to the chicken now.
**Tip: I picked up a few chicken breast cutlets, and cut them into small pieces. The cutlets are thin so it allows the chicken to cook faster. Feel free to use thighs instead of breasts, for more flavor though.**
Season with salt, pepper and Spanish smoked paprika.
Toss to evenly combine, and then add to the hot skillet. Stir around to spread out the chicken into an even layer. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, until browned and crispy.
Transfer the cooked chicken to the plate with the ham and chorizo. Then throw in the shrimp into the hot skillet. Season with a bit of salt, pepper and Spanish smoked paprika, just like the chicken. Cook the shrimp, turning once, until pink and cooked through and opaque, about 8 to 10 minutes (depending on the size of your shrimp).
Remove the shrimp from the skillet and add a splash more olive oil, if needed. Once hot again, add the chopped onions and garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add in the red bell pepper and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes until soft. Season with a pinch of salt and black pepper.
Once the veggies have cooked and softened, add in the tomatoes, and the cleaned mussels and clams.
**Note: I was able to get cleaned mussels and clams at my local grocery store, but if you can’t find either of these, then you can simply leave them out. They’re not necessary to the dish. Or if you’re allergic or just don’t care for them for some reason (weird) then you can forget about them and this step.**
**Tip: You want the mussels and clam shells to be closed completely before cooking, that’s a sign of freshness!**
Stir in the chicken broth or stock (or white wine if you prefer) and cover the skillet with a lid. Cook until the mussels and clams have fully opened.
The mussels will open in about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove those from the skillet and continue to cook the clams. The clams will open in about 7 to 9 minutes. Remove the skillet from the stove and allow to cool down somewhat.
While the veggies and shell fish cool, cook the pasta according to the box’s directions. Cook until al dente which means there’s still a little bite to them. Not too soft and mushy. That’s not good. You can use whatever short cut pasta you prefer.
Also make the vinaigrette while you’re at it too, might as well.
**Tip: I like to make my dressings and vinaigrettes in mason jars (with lids) so that I can easily shake them up and then pour them over the dressing.**
Add all of the dressing ingredients in to the jar. Olive oil, vegetable oil, red wine (or sherry) vinegar, shallot, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, mustard, Spanish smoked paprika and saffron.
**Note: Saffron is a crucial and very traditional ingredient in paella. It’s what gives the traditional dish made of rice, that yellowish/red color. It’s somewhat expensive and can be hard to find. If you’re having trouble tracking it down, you can find it online, here.**
Close the jar tightly and then shake vigorously until thick and pale in color.
Once the noodles have cooked, drain well and allow to cool down somewhat. Unless you want to eat the pasta salad warm, then you can just proceed to the next steps of mixing everything together. I prefer this salad more at room temperature, so I allowed my pasta to cool down.
Throw the cooled (or hot) noodles into a large bowl or big pot. (I don’t have a big enough bowl, so I just used a large pot to toss it all together. Don’t judge).
Throw in all of the protein we so carefully browned and crisped into the pot or bowl. That’s the chorizo, ham, chicken, and shrimp. Remove the clams and the mussels from the veggie pot and transfer them to plate. We’ll add those in later. Add in the veggies, but use a slotted spoon to grab them from the skillet, so you don’t bring in all of that liquid the mussels and clams cooked in. (We don’t need that broth anymore. It fulfilled it’s purpose, thanks for coming).
Add freshly chopped parsley and half of the vinaigrette, to start off with. Toss everything to evenly combine and then taste for seasoning. It might need more salt, pepper or dressing, according to your tastes. Adjust accordingly.
At this point, you can transfer the pasta salad to a prettier serving bowl, if you’re going to take this somewhere or if you’re wanting to impress someone. You could also just leave it in the pot or bowl you mixed it in, that’s okay too.
Then top the salad with the clams and mussels and fresh lemon wedges for presentation, more than flavor.
Serve the pasta warm or at room temperature, it can even be eaten straight from the fridge! Pasta salads are supposed to be cold in my book. But if you prefer a hot pasta dish, just warm it in a pot and serve hot.
If you’ve never had paella before then you’ve been missing out and this would be a great way to start out, because you won’t know whether it’s traditional or not. But for those of you who have had paella before and love it, then you’re going to love this salad because as it just so happens, it does in deed taste like traditional paella, without the rice of course. But that’s okay because at least there’s pasta involved.
So some of these ingredients can get a little pricey, I completely understand this because as I’ve said before, I’m not made of money myself. If that’s the case, you can totally leave out the clams and mussels. We don’t need those. I’m completely happy with just the shrimp and ham and chicken and sausage themselves. That alone is more than enough, but for the purposes of the recipe and tradition, I included the seafood.
The great thing about this recipe is that because it’s a salad, the pasta is filling as it is. So that means you can stuff people with more pasta and less of the protein. This is a great way to stretch a buck because a little bit of each protein will go a long way. You don’t have to go out and get a lot of each ingredient, but rather just grab half a pound of each and you’ll be good to go.
I’ve had paella a couple of times now and I love it the classic way with rice, but I do have to say that this paella pasta salad is a nice twist to the traditional recipe. I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to reinvent my favorite dishes. I hope that all of the steps and crazy ingredients won’t deter you from making it yourself. I guarantee that you and your loved ones will enjoy it!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¾ pound Spanish chorizo (or any other smoked/cured sausage), sliced
- ½ pound ham steak, diced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
- 1 pound chicken breast cutlets, cut into chunks
- 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- ½ cup chicken stock, or white wine
- 6 mussels, cleaned
- 6 clams, cleaned
- 1 pound pasta (any short cut)
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine (or sherry) vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
- 15 to 20 strands saffron
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, with the olive oil and allow to heat through. Add in the sliced chorizo and cook until crispy and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and transfer to a plate. Add in the diced ham and cook until crisped as well, about 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the chorizo, using a slotted spoon.
- In a small bowl, toss together the chopped chicken, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper and 1 teaspoon smoked paprika. Add the seasoned chicken to the hot skillet and cook until crisped and brown all over, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the ham and chorizo. Add the shrimp to the hot skillet and season with a pinch of salt, pepper, and paprika. Toss to evenly combine and cook until the shrimp is pink and opaque, about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on their size. Transfer the shrimp to the plate with the rest of the protein.
- Add a bit more oil if the skillet needs it, and toss in the chopped onions, and garlic. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the red bell pepper and cook another 2 minutes to soften. Season with the remaining salt, pepper, and paprika. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth (or wine) and tuck in the mussels and clams. Cover with a lid and cook until the mussels and clams have completely opened. The mussels should open in about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the mussels to a plate and continue to cook the clams until they've opened as well, about 7 to 9 minutes. Once opened, remove the skillet from the stove and allow to cool down.
- In the meantime, cook the noodles according to the package, until al dente. Drain and allow to cool down as well.
- To make the vinaigrette: Combine all of the ingredients in a mason jar. Close tightly with the lid and shake vigorously until thick and pale in color. You can also make it in a blender or food processor. Just blend until thick and pale in color. Taste for season and adjust accordingly.
- Once the pasta has cooled, throw it in to a large bowl or pot. Add in the cooked chorizo, ham, chicken, shrimp and veggies. If the veggies have a lot of liquid, lift them with a slotted spoon to drain. You don't want the salad to be too wet. Add the chopped parsley and half of the vinaigrette to start with. Toss to evenly combine. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly by adding more salt, pepper, paprika or vinaigrette if needed. Top with the clams, mussels and lemon wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!
- yield: about 4 to 6 servings