Heidi Billotto’s Easy 30 Minute Paella “As Seen On TV”

Easy HeidiI love sharing new recipes in these posts, in my cooking classes and on the televised cooking segments  I am asked to do from month to month.

When my friends at WBTV’s Morning Break reached out a month or so ago,  I was told the theme of the segment was to come up with something viewers could cook in 30 minutes or less.  While I always emphasis the use of local, regional and often organic product – cooking in a time crunch is not necessarily one of my specialties.

That said, there are loads of easy and delicious was to shortcut prep and cooking time without compromising on flavor.  The trick, as I mentioned early on in the following video with Morning Break host Chris Larson, is to use really good local ingredients and products into which other people have put a lot of time so that those products help you to build  fabulous flavor in a short amount of time! Don’t settle, use quality ingredients as you build shortcuts to this or any recipe. Think about the flavor of each ingredient you put in the pot,  and you will never go wrong.

I can assure you that if I could make this recipe in the 3 minute segment time allowed on WBTV’s Morning Break, then you can easily create it in 30 minutes or less at home. Click Here to Watch the Video and then come back for the particulars on recipe ingredients and cooking technique and direction…

Click Here for Heidi's Paella Cooking Segment As Seen on Morning Break Charlotte

Now that you’ve watched the video, just a few printed words about my list of  local ingredients I used to make this classic recipe. In the past several days I have made nearly a half dozen variations of this recipe from Gluten Free to Vegetarian, from meat-full, to seafood heavy and each incarnation has been delicious and quick to cook. Try you own tasty combo of flavors and then let me know what you did – always fun to see how creative people can be when they add their own mix of flavors.

My recipe starts with a saute of  organic onions and peppers in a current harvest, ultra premium extra virgin olive oil. As you know I have several favorite go-tos but for this recipe in particular I really love the Mushroom & Sage infused olive oil from Pour Olive on East Blvd. In Charlotte, NC.

I work this over high heat and once the onions start to go limp and become tender with the beginnings of a golden brown caramelization, I start building flavor with the addition of Outer Banks Sea Salt, a bit of granulated garlic ( or fresh local garlic when it is in season) and a about a teaspoon of saffron threads which I crumble into the pot.

Next add your proteins – when I made this dish to enjoy at home with my husband Tom, I added cubes of extra firm tofu and slices of Smiling Hara tempeh. On television I used a  rotisserie chicken from Earthfare to shortcut the time to cook the meat; but  when I am not in a hurry,  I simply saute pieces of local chicken I often purchased from Cindy Digh at Clearview Farms at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ market on Saturdays in Building A.  The recipe is also a great vehicle for leftover  roast or boiled local chicken, pork or rabbit.

In addition I like to add sausage. For my gluten free class I used a local lamb sausage from Bellflower farms ( sold at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market by Sara Jane and Jamie at A Way of Life Farm on Saturdays in Building A as well).

When I am cooking for folks who are okay with gluten, I like to use a wonderful plant-based chorizo-style “sausage” from  No Evil Foods in Asheville, NC. This product is made from GMO free wheat gluten and a ton of fabulous flavor, but no fat, so it makes the dish all the healthier – available at Earthfare and Whole Foods in Charlotte, NC

My go to for this quick and easy Paella is a brown basmati rice. We are crazy for brown rice and the basmati variety cooks a little more quickly than most, making it a great ingredient when a 30 minute or less time frame is an important component to the recipes.

Toss the rice with the meats and veggies to coat it and let it start to warm and then you need liquid. For flavor and  texture and to short cut the time it takes to allow canned or whole organic tomatoes to cook down, I turn to a locally made pasta sauce from my friends Melanie and Andy Tritten at Cannizzaro Sauces in Charlotte.

New VEGAN Option from CannizzaroIf you are vegan you will want to use their brand new Marinara Sauce and add a bit of red pepper flakes to pep it up, But if the addition of dairy doesn’t bother you ( these just-like-you-would-make-it-at-home) sauces are made with Italian Parmesan cheese rinds added to the mix for deep layers of flavor) then do as I did on TV and add in a jar of Cannizzaro Arribbiata Sauce. Stir to coat the rice and your proteins of choice and then add an organic boxed or homemade chicken or veggie broth until the liquid in the pan comes up just high enough to cover the ingredients in the pan.

Then you are nearly done. Bring the liquid in the pan to a boil; cover and then let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Add fresh greens like arugula; or frozen beans or peas like edamame or baby limas  and your seafood.

Shrimp, lobster, mussels or clams all work well, if you would like. Bury then in the rice, cover the pan once again and let the seafood steam over medium high heat for about 10 minutes. If you have an extra 10 minutes or so, place the covered paella in a 375 degree oven for an the edges will begin to brown and create a crisp crust of rice that gives the finished dish a wonderful texture. Enjoy!


Heidi Billotto’s Easy  30 Minute Paella

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

1/4 cup Pour Olive Mushroom & Sage Extra Virgin Olive Oil

10-12  organic or local chicken pieces

¼ lb. No Evil Foods plant-based Chorizo, crumbled

1 medium local or organic onion, chopped

dash of granulated garlic (available from the Savory Spice Shop)

1 tsp. crumbled saffron threads (available from the Savory Spice Shop)

1 cup diced local or organic bell pepper

3 cups brown basmati rice

5 Tbsp. fresh minced parsley, arugula or microgreens

2 bay leaves

1 jar Cannizzaro Sauces Arribbiatta sauce

organic or homemade chicken or veggie broth as needed

2-3 Tbsp Dijon Mustard

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled

4-5 small lobster tails

Saute onions and bell peppers until tender. Add chicken and sausage in olive oil until slightly browned Add garlic, saffron and rice to the pan and stir to coat in well with the oil. Sprinkle in parsley and add bay leaves. Add tomato sauce,  broth, mustard &  a squeeze of lemon if you would like. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 7-8 minutes or until rice is no longer soupy, but some liquid remains. Bury the shrimp and lobster tails in the rice.  Add fresh greens or parsley and frozen peas or beans. Turn heat down to medium; cover and continue cooking until rice is done – about 20 mins more.


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