Valentine’s Day Vegetarian Paella

Why not heat things up on Valentine’s by preparing a delicious vegetarian paella to light up your romance. This is a classic Mediterranean favorite that’s always a success and the abundance and combination of ingredients make it a complete meal. Leftovers taste great by simply microwaving individual portions for a minute or two or oven baking the paella with your favorite grated cheese on top.

Cooking time: 15 minutes to cook the rice (or follow the manufacturer’s directions), about 40-45 minutes to put together the paella. This recipe yields about four-five servings.

Drink: A sparkling prosecco such as Carpené Malvolti di Conegliano is light and bubbly, it accompanies vegetarian meals and it’s perfect for celebrating any occasion such as Valentine’s Day.

Dessert: Handmade chocolate truffles

Ingredients

  • 3 cups semi-cooked medium or long-grain rice
  • 8 ounces soy sausage
  • 6 ounces veggie burgers (such as Boca or Morning Star)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 8 ounce can of diced tomatoes (drain their liquid in a strainer)
  • 1 cup Italian borlotti beans (the canned variety will do)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (you can make your own or use the store-bought kind such as Campbell’s)
  • paprika
  • saffron (about 10 threads)
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • Mediterranean coarse salt (with its own grinder) and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large pan, wok or 15-inch paella pan over medium heat and add the onion.

When the onion has become transparent add garlic, crumbled soy hamburger and chopped soy sausage and saute for a 2-3 minutes. Garlic must not burn or it will taste bitter.

Add all the vegetables, the borlotti beans, rosemary, saffron, paprika and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

Add rice and stir in with other ingredients.

Add 1/4-1/2 cup of the broth and stir until it’s absorbed by the rice. Add the rest of the broth and stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Keep stirring to keep rice and vegetables from sticking to the pot. More broth can be added if ingredients aren’t fully cooked.

When done remove the rosemary sprigs and add a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.

Serving suggestion

Scoop paella on plates and sprinkle chopped basil and parsley on top. Fresh herbs will give the paella a wonderful aroma, but dried herbs will do just as well. You can also grate some fresh parmesan cheese (the real stuff, Parmigiano Reggiano) or Grana Padano.

Alternative recipe

Instead of rice you can use couscous. Cook the couscous according to the cooking directions on the package and proceed as per recipe above. Fresh or frozen vegetables can be used in both recipes.

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