Heat a 14" paella pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Add the sofrito and sauté until warmed through and gently bubbling.
Turn the heat to low. Add the saffron to the liquid released by the soffrito. Add the paprika. Stir to combine and continue cooking for 15 seconds (do not burn the paprika).
Pour in all of the rice and stir through the pan. Turn the heat back up to high. Allow the rice to absorb the flavors of the sofrito for 30 seconds. Add just enough broth to just cover the rice and bring to a boil. (Do not add all 3 cups of broth, but reserve for later, if needed.) Use a spatula to push under the rice and move things around to prevent sticking. This move will break the surface tension between the rice and the bottom of the pan and is essential at this stage. Using a wooden spoon, carefully stir the rice and distribute evenly through the pan. This is the only time you will ever stir the paella as we want it to cook evenly in one layer.
Turn down the heat and maintain a medium simmer. The rice should be bubbling but not boiling aggressively. Cook for 15 minutes, adding more stock as needed each time the rice begins to look dry. Salt the paella throughout the cooking process, taking care to taste as you go. At the 15 minute mark, add your vegetables. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes, tasting the rice to check its progress and adding more stock as needed. Add the chopped piquillo peppers. Occasionally rotate and gently shake the pan to ensure even cooking. Check the rice at the 18-20 minute mark.
Continue cooking until almost all the liquid is absorbed, and the rice begins to look a bit “sticky.” Continue cooking on low heat until you start to smell a slight burning. The “socarrat” is developing. Allow this to continue for a few more minutes, and then turn off the heat.
Garnish with thinly sliced lemon pieces. Cover with a clean towel and let rest for 15 minutes. Serve the entire pan at the table family style. If you’ve cooked vegan paella well, you will discover nice browned bits on the bottom of the pan. This is called the “socarrat” and is absolutely delicious and full of flavor.
Serve vegan paella drizzled with additional Spanish olive oil. Enjoy!
If you can not find Matiz sofrito, you can use 1 chopped yellow onion and 1/2 cup tomato passata (or crushed canned tomatoes).
In addition to green beans, there are a variety of vegetables — depending on the time of year — that work very well in a vegan paella. Below are a few of Chef James' favorites:
- asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
- summer squash, cut into thin coins
- summer corn, shaved off the cob and added to the paella toward the end of the cooking process
- mushrooms, cut into small pieces
Feel free to add whatever vegetables you like and be creative!