Though traditional paella centres on a variety of meat and seafood, we wanted to develop a vegetable-focused version that highlighted the array of hearty vegetables common in Spanish cuisine: artichokes, bell peppers, fennel, and peas.
We gave the artichokes and peppers extra flavour by roasting and then tossing them with a bright, lemony sauce. We sauteed the fennel with chopped onion to give it a rich caramelized flavour that gave the dish aromatic backbone. Chopped kalamata olives brought in a distinct pop of briny, contrasting flavour.
To infuse the rice with complex, authentic flavour, we bloomed the paprika with the garlic and browned diced tomatoes to give them savory depth. We coated the rice with this potent mixture before adding broth, wine, and saffron and simmering the rice until tender.
Cooking on the stovetop alone yielded unevenly cooked rice, so we transferred it to a 350 F oven where the grains cooked to perfection in the steady, even heat. You will need at least a 6-quart Dutch oven for this recipe. While we prefer the flavour and texture of jarred whole baby artichokes, you can substitute 18 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and patted dry, for the jarred kind.
Bomba rice is the most traditional rice for this dish, but you can use any variety of Valencia rice. If you cannot find Valencia rice, you can substitute Arborio rice. Socarrat, a layer of crusty browned rice that forms on the bottom of the pan, is a traditional part of paella. In this version, socarrat does not develop because most of the cooking is done in the oven; if desired, there are directions on how to make a socarrat before serving.
Start to finish: 2 hours
3 cups jarred whole baby artichokes packed in water, quartered, rinsed, and patted dry
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped coarse
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
9 garlic cloves, peeled (3 whole, 6 minced)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 onion, chopped fine
1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained, minced, and drained again
2 cups Bomba rice
3 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 450 F. Toss artichokes and peppers with olives, whole garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in bowl. Spread vegetables in hot sheet and roast until artichokes are browned around edges and peppers are browned, 20 to 25 minutes; let cool slightly.
Mince roasted garlic. In large bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons parsley, lemon juice, and minced roasted garlic together. Add roasted vegetables and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and fennel and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in remaining minced garlic and paprika and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and cook until mixture begins to darken and thicken slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in rice and cook until grains are well coated with tomato mixture, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, wine, saffron, and 1 teaspoon salt. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Cover, transfer pot to oven, and bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 25 to 35 minutes.
For optional socarrat, transfer pot to stovetop and remove lid. Cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, rotating pot as needed, until bottom layer of rice is well browned and crisp.
Sprinkle roasted vegetables and peas over rice, cover, and let paella sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley and serve.