Traditional paella consists of a sofrito usually made from onions, tomatoes, peppers and garlic cooked until brown, followed by the addition of seafood stock, short or medium grain rice, saffron, rabbit, snails, chicken or shell-on seafood. The dish is cooked uncovered in a shallow pan until the rice is cooked through and a crust forms on the bottom of the pan.
Paella as it is known today originated in Valencia, Spain during the mid 19th century, and it's Spain's national dish. While there is a general consensus that paella must include a sofrito, short or medium grain rice, saffron, stock and some form of meat or seafood, there is no single definitive recipe for authentic paella.
Some authentic paella recipes include legumes, rabbit, snail and rosemary in addition to rice, garlic and tomatoes. Others utilize seafood such as mussels, shrimp, lobster and cuttlefish and aromatic bay leaves. Mixed paella includes both shell-on seafood and chicken, as well as the traditional garlic and saffron for seasoning.
Paella is typically cooked over an open flame in a shallow steel pan that heats quickly, and evenly to create a crispy brown crust on the bottom that's known as socarrat. The pan also has two handles which makes it easy to carry to the table for serving family style.