Algarve Cataplana

Algarve Cataplana

Cataplana is both a pan (looks like a wok with a hinged lid) and the dish cooked within the pan, although a large pot with a tight fitting lid will suffice. Some say that cataplana is Portugal’s answer to Spanish paella. Others will assert that, as Portugal is in fact older than Spain, paella is Spain’s answer to Portuguese cataplana! American Southerners might shrug and say, “Looks like gumbo to me.” Whatever. They’re all delicious. Paella has rice within the dish, while cataplana has rice (or crusty bread) served alongside. Both are chock full of the seafood that is so abundant in the Algarve region. Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Serves 6)

1/4 cup good quality olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups diced tomatoes

1/2 cup of diced Portuguese cured sausage (chouriço or linguiça, preferably. Chorizo may be substituted if you can’t find Portuguese cured sausage where you live, but please do not tell a Portuguese cook that you used chorizo!) 🙂

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika (I like smoked paprika)

2 cups raw whole shrimp

2 cups raw whole mussels

2 cups raw whole clams

(Note: feel free to substitute or add small chunks of raw fish if you like!)

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup coconut milk or heavy cream (optional)

Lemon wedges and/or chopped cilantro (to garnish)

Cooked rice or bread (to serve alongside)


Step 1) Saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Step 2) Add tomatoes, sausage, salt, pepper, and paprika. Cook over medium heat, covered, for 15 minutes.

Tomato mixture after 15 minutes of cooking (covered)

Step 3) Add seafood and cook, covered, over medium heat for 15 minutes or until all seafood is cooked through. Shrimp should be completely pink and all mussel and clam shells should be open (discard any shells that do not open). Fish, if added, should flake easily.

Step 3) Remove from heat. Add wine and cream; stir gently. Garnish with lemon and/or cilantro and serve immediately with rice or bread.

A beach in the Algarve region of Portugal

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