The One-Pot Spanish Baked Rice That Puts Your Pantry To Use

Say hello to arroz al horno Valenciano, a paella-adjacent Spanish rice dish that shares many of that more famous dish's toothsome qualities, without being anywhere near as labor-intensive to make. At its most basic, arroz al horno is a combination of legumes (usually chickpeas), rice, tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. But, as you might imagine, the potential for variation — including adding such wonderful things as pork, sausage, fried potatoes, herbs, saffron, and even currants — is virtually endless. Here's the best part: All you need to whip up a batch of arroz al horno is one sturdy pot, a well-stocked pantry, and maybe a quick trip to the grocery store. 

How much heavy lifting can your pantry do if you decide to make arroz al horno? Most of it, frankly, besides the actual cooking part. Do you have a bag of short-grain Spanish rice, like the Bomba used in paella? How about a can of cooked chickpeas (or a box of dried)? Is there a head of garlic within reach, and a bottle of olive oil? Does your spice drawer contain bay leaves, smoked paprika, and saffron? Is there some homemade meat stock in the freezer, or a quart in the pantry? (You can also use the beans' cooking liquid for a vegan version.) If your larder isn't this loaded, consider it an opportunity to do your future self a solid and stock up. Even though it can be pricey, having some saffron on hand can really come in clutch. 

Making arroz al horno Valenciano

Let's talk about the pot needed to make arroz al horno. We're not talking about the thin, shallow pans usually used to make paella; you'll need a thick-bottomed, 3.5-quart, lidded vessel that can handle all the searing, toasting, and steaming (it's going to spend some time in the oven too, so make sure it's sturdy). 

As with any one-pot dish, you'll want to cook things in a certain order. Start by searing your choice of protein (we'll get into option specifics later), then toast the rice, spices, and herbs. Finally, add a cooking liquid and layer the remaining ingredients (at least a head of garlic and sliced fresh tomatoes in addition to the seared protein) on top of the rice before covering it and popping it into a decently hot oven.

Assuming your cooking equipment and pantry items are good to go, all that remains is a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up some fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary, a big heirloom tomato, a couple of Yukon Gold potatoes, and your choice of protein (think pork ribs, belly, and/or Spanish blood sausage). Once home, you can begin the process of assembling what is sure to become a beloved staple.