Fast and Easy Shrimp “Paella”

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

José protested repeatedly that my dish was “an arroz, not a paella,” the distinction in his mind being that paella must be cooked in a paella pan. Fine. Although I believe paella is almost any rice-and-anything-else-dish from Spain (and I know plenty of non-fussy Spaniards who’d agree), let’s call this Arroz de Gambas, a dish that not only bears a distinctive resemblance and similarity in flavor to paella, but tastes great. Got that?

NotesShrimp Shell Stock:

By extracting great flavor from something you’d ordinarily throw out, making stock from shrimp shells is one of the smartest things a home cook can do. All it takes is this: Put whatever shells you have in a saucepan and add water to cover. Bring it to a boil, then take the pan off the heat and let the shells steep until you’re ready to use the stock, or until the water cools. Put the stock through a strainer; discard the shells and use or refrigerate (up to two days) or freeze (up to a month). Nothing easier, and often the best stock to use in seafood dishes.

About Pimentón:

I liked to tease José by nonchalantly referring to pimentón, Spain’s beloved smoked paprika, as simply “paprika.” His eyes lit up in astonishment, and he immediately began lecturing me about the provenance and flavor of “real” pimentón. He seems to oscillate between being angry at the Hungarians for producing something that could be confused with Spain’s noble spice and being angry at what he feels is the food world’s carelessness in thinking that paprika can mean just any “ground dried pepper.”

José’s jingoistic proclivities aside, pimentón is a great ingredient with a distinctive flavor that makes some Spanish food taste “right.” It’s made from certain types of peppers, which are picked ripe and then dried over the smoldering ashes of an oak fire, a process that reportedly takes up to two weeks and clearly imbues the peppers with a strong, smoky flavor.

There are three types of pimentón, hot, sweet, and bitter, but I’ve seen them used pretty interchangeably. If you can’t find a local source, try the Spice House,

4 servings

Cooking Methodbaking



Total Timeunder 1 hour

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationlow-fat, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Taste and Textureherby, savory, spiced

Type of Dishcasserole


  • 4 cups shrimp shell stock (see Notes) or chicken stock
  • Pinch saffron (optional but very nice)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • About 1 teaspoon pimentón (Spanish paprika; see Notes) or other paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups Spanish (or other) shortgrain rice
  • 2 cups raw peeled shrimp, cut into ½-inch chunks, shells reserved for stock
  • Salt
  • Minced fresh parsley, for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Warm the stock in a saucepan along with the saffron, if you’re using it. Place an ovenproof 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. A minute later, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika and cumin and cook 1 minute more.

  2. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until glossy, just 1 or 2 minutes. Stir in the shrimp, season liberally with salt, and add the warm stock, taking care to avoid the rising steam. Transfer the skillet to the oven.

  3. Bake about 15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is dry on top. Taste for salt, then garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

  4. 3. Bake about 15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is dry on top. Taste for salt, then garnish with parsley and serve immediately.


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