Paella for a Crowd

I was serving a crowd with a mixture of seafood loving and vegetarian  guests for the housewarming of our new holiday house on the island of  Santa Maria, Azores. 

View of Atlantic Ocean from the Kitchen

Finally after a year and a half of buying and renovating we are able to stay in our own home.  It has turned out even better than we anticipated! How often can you say that?

Here is what we arrived to at 8 pm one Saturday night…

‘Before’ Kitchen

The following Saturday it looked like this….

‘After’ Kitchen
Social Area

I have already learned that on this 17 X 9 kilometer, volcanic rock island  in the mid Atlantic you check for the best ingredients at the market and then decide what to make.  I had seen spice packets specifically for Paella in the grocery store already so I was pretty sure I could get the right chorizo and seafood and  rice to make paella.

It was also a perfect dish to be able to divide into vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Rice for paella should be a medium grain rice. You want it to absorb liquid but not be creamy or sticky.   I soaked the rice for about an hour and rinsed it a couple of times so it would separate nicely when cooked.  Then I sauteed the uncooked rice in a frying pan with oil, garlic, onions and red peppers – just enough to slightly soften the onions and coat the rice.  I gave the whole mixture a generous splash of white wine and let the the pan sizzle until the wine had been absorbed or evaporated.

Then I divided the rice mixture into 2 separate pans.  Paella is traditionally cooked in a shallow pan over an open fire.  It is supposed to be only about 1/2 -1″ deep in the pan so you can create a caramelized crust on the bottom.  That didn’t happen with mine but I was pretty happy with it anyway!

For the vegetarian version I used a vegetable broth with the paella seasoning and added chickpeas in lieu of sausage and seafood.   For the non vegetarian version I used a wonderful chicken broth I had made, the seasoning  and a mixture of piquant and regular local sausage.


I covered my pans with foil and baked them in the oven for about an hour until the liquid was absorbed and the rice was cooked and fragrant.

In another non-traditional twist I steamed my seafood – clams, mussels, shrimp and calamari on the stove in a garlic and white wine broth. That way guests could spoon some over the rice based on dietary preferences.


I prepared a side salad – Melon and Crispy Prosciutto Salad because the melons here are the island are incredibly flavourful and juicy. Prosciutto is also readily available here. I left the prosciutto bits to the side so people could build their own salad with our without it!


Dessert was an almond cake brought by one of the guests.  A perfect ending to the meal!

So.. not traditional but it worked out beautifully.

And… here is a picture of a perfect ending of the day…



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Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Spanish
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 15 mins
Total Time: 2 hrs 45 mins
Servings: 12 servings


  • 4 cups medium grain rice
  • 8 cups chicken broth (use vegetable for vegetarian option)
  • 4 +2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 sweet red peppers diced
  • 2 medium yellow onions diced
  • 4 6" chorizo type sausage -not spicy
  • 2 6" chorizo type sausage spicy
  • 2 lbs shrimp shelled and deveined
  • 1 lb other seafood of your choice (clams, mussels, calamari or a seafood mixture)
  • 2 cups frozen green peas
  • 4 +2 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine divided 1/4 cup and 1/4 cup

Paella seasoning

  • 4 good pinches saffron
  • 2 Tbsps paprika can be a mix of smoked and sweet but use at least 50% sweet
  • 1-2 tsps cayenne optional
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt


  • Rinse uncooked rice in cold water. Cover with water and allow to stand about 1 hour. Drain and rinse.
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Heat 4 Tbsps olive oil in a frying pan. When hot add 4 cloves minced garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add the onion and red pepper and cook another 3 or 4 minutes. Add the drained rice and stir until rice is evenly coated. Add 1/4 cup white wine and allow wine to evaporate- another 3-4 minutes.
  • Transfer rice mixture to a paella pan or low wide oven proof pan.
  • Dissolve spices in hot broth and pour over rice mixture.
  • Remove casing from sausage if necessary and slice into 1/2" rounds.
  • Add sausage and peas to the rice and broth and stir to distribute.
  • Cover oven pan(s) with foil but leave an opening so steam can escape.
  • Bake about 55 -60 minutes. Check that liquid has been absorbed, remove from oven. Stir and allow to stand covered about 5 minutes.
  • While rice is baking clean and prepare the shrimp and seafood as required ( shell & devein, shrimp if necessary, debeard mussels it necessary etc) Abut 5 minutes before rice will be removed from the oven, heat remaining olive oil and garlic in a large stock pot. Add 1/4 cup white wine and seafood. Cover tightly and allow to steam 3-5 minutes.Using a slotted spoon, ladle seafood over rice when serving.


For Vegetarian version: Replace chicken broth with vegetable broth. Replace sausage and seafood with 2-3 cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed.

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