Arroz con Calamares

rice with squid

Arroz con Calamares (rice with squid) is a simple paella like dish which is very common in Cataluña, Valencia and other parts of the Spanish Mediterranean coast. This is economical fare, the bulk being made up of rice, flavoured with fish stock, wine and saffron.

heads and bones

Do cook your own fish stock if you have access to heads and bones, otherwise a good fishmonger will normally sell it in jars.

Fish Stock:

3 fish heads and bones
1 onion (roughly chopped)
6 cloves garlic
2 carrots (quartered)
2 sticks celery (quartered)
a large tomato (quartered)
2 bay leaves
a teaspoon of fennel seeds
a few sprigs thyme
a handful of fresh parsley
a level teaspoon black peppercorns
sea salt (to taste)
a glass of white wine
2 pints water
extra virgin olive oil

Brown the fish, pour on the wine, add the vegetables, herbs and water. Bring to a simmer skim off any foam and cook gently for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and strain.

Arroz con Calamares receta:

800g Squid (cleaned and diced)
500g Spanish Bomba or Senia rice
1 onion
6 cloves garlic
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
4 tomatoes (grated)
250g fresh peas
2 pints fish stock
a glass of dry white wine
a pinch of saffron
4 teaspoons parsley
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper


Using a paella pan on the largest gas ring turned up half way, fry a chopped onion in the center of the pan (the hottest part) with extra virgin olive oil. Use a spatula to keep the onion moving and add more oil if the pan looks dry. A small Spanish style pouring spout in the top of the bottle is good for this (and making allioli). Fairly constant stirring is required until the fish stock goes in.


When the onion has caramelised a little, move it to the outside of the pan (which is cooler) and add the chopped sweet peppers, with more oil.


Cook the peppers for a few minutes and move them outwards to make way for the squid. If you are squeamish or lack the time, you can ask your fishmonger to clean the squid for you. I left the tentacles whole and diced the bodies, but if they are small squid they can be cut into rings (if you wish). Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper.


When the squid begins to take on a slight pink tinge, it too is moved out to the edge (with the onion and peppers), to make way for 4 grated tomatoes. In most dishes I grate the tomatoes straight in, but here it’s easier to prepare them in advance.

garlic and parsley

Add the garlic and 3 teaspoons of parsley (save the fourth one for garnish) to the tomato, plus another sprinkling of salt and pepper.


Mix the tomatoes, garlic and parsley and allow it to thicken. Keep stirring!


When the tomatoes have visibly concentrated, combine everything in the paellera.


The peas go in just before the rice, when using fresh ones.

peas in a pod

Many people use frozen peas, but I prefer them straight from the farm – they are in season now.


Pour 500g Spanish Bomba or Senia rice into the paella pan and coat the rice with the cooking liquid. This flavours and slightly toasts it in the hot pan.

fish stock

Heat up the stock ahead of time – don’t use it cold.


Add the stock and wine, followed by a large pinch of saffron (ground in a mortar and pestle and then mixed with a splash of boiling water). Give the squid and rice a final stir and turn the gas ring to full. Check the seasoning now – it’s the last chance!


Cook for 8 – 10 minutes on high, and when the stock has noticeably reduced (and you can see little hermit crab like holes appearing in the surface), turn the gas down to it’s lowest setting.


When most of the stock has been absorbed by the rice, turn the heat off (probably 5 – 8 minutes). The rice makes a slight crackling sound and there should be a slight caramelisation smell relative to it sticking to the bottom of the pan. Don’t allow it to turn into a burning smell! If in doubt, poke a hole into the rice with the wrong end of a fork and look to see if the bottom of the pan is wet or dry. Be cautious – slightly wet rice is better than burnt rice.


Allow the arroz con calamares to descansar (rest) for 5 minutes, under some newspaper or kitchen roll. The paper keeps the dish warm and absorbs the steam, so that it doesn’t condense and drip back down onto the rice.

arroz con calamares

Finally, sprinkle on a little parsley for decoration.


The rice should stick slightly to the bottom of the paellera to create a socarrat – this is a savoury brown crust, much sought after when making a paella. Socarrat comes from the verb socarrar to singe or sear.


Serve with lemon wedges and plenty of home made allioli. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Calamar, Vino Blanco, Rueda Verdejo (oddly made inland, but perfect with seafood).

arroz negro con calamares

…and if you have a jar of cuttlefish ink in the cupboard, add about 45g at the same time as the stock to make black rice. Add cooked peas and broad beans, with a little chopped parsley, at the end, for decoration and contrast to the blackness.

About Mad Dog
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20 Responses to Arroz con Calamares

  1. Eha says:

    What a great lesson as this is one of my very favourite dishes in the world ! Show me squid or octopus and I am sure to be there ! I am learning . . . I usually leave squid in as large pieces as I can. I also have as a rule cooked it ‘short’, ie added it later and want to time it your way next time. Really have to remember the fennel in the stock also. Telling tales out of school – had a bit of a difference of opinion with a well-known Sown Under blogger posting about ‘Spanish Paella’ to a huge ‘audience’ but quite ‘forgetting’ there was the matter of ‘soccarat’ . . . guess one has to practice that a few times to get it right . . . 🙂 !

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Eha – some people cook the squid first, but I think that’s just a difference between villages or family recipes. This way produces a very delicate and tender squid with no rubberiness whatsoever, but I also like large squid cooked quickly in one flat piece on a griddle.

  2. jake90uk says:

    Lovely recipe MD! It is really helpful that you take photos throughout the cooking process. When is the cookbook coming out?

  3. Thank you for this brilliant step-by-step recipe with photos – best guide to making an arroz dish I’ve seen. Makes me much more inclined to try it, knowing you’ll be holding my hand throughout the process, so to speak.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Fiona – it’s good to hear from you! All the arroz dishes (and fideuà) are cooked more or less the same way. After you’ve done it once it becomes second nature. Arroz Meloso is a good one to start with – it stays wet so you don’t have to worry so much about the cooking time and the rice drying out – a lot of restaurants cook it in the oven!

  4. Me la guardo para hacerla en casa cuando vuelva de la playa. Tiene una pinta estupendisima!!

  5. This looks delicious! I love squid, and this reminds me funnily enough of a classic Roman dish, squid with tomato and peas.

    I’m still working on my paella technique, in particular getting that soccarat just right. Seems mine either burns or turns out too wet for my taste. Getting it just right is a matter of practice, I guess.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Frank – the socarrat is definitely easier with a large double ring gas burner. There is a correct smell when it’s ready – a bit like that when making a Spanish tortilla or omelette. There are some good paella videos on YouTube (albeit in Spanish) which are definitely worth watching for technique. Some people let the sofregit thicken a lot more than I do and I think it sticks to the rice in the middle, creating a thick crust.

  6. Karen says:

    When we stayed at The Serras in Barcelona my husband ordered a dish called Catalan Rice With Seafood. I went back and looked at my photo of his dish and it is very similar. My husband said it was one of the best rice dishes he had ever had and I’m sure he would love yours.

  7. Ron says:

    One should never read your post just prior to dinner time as I’m famished after reading about this dish. I love simple dishes and I’ve never had rice I didn’t like. Your fish stock recipe sounds wonderful as well. I do make my own and I’m always looking for different stock recipes. Thanks for the lovely tutorial and making me very hungry.

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