2cupsshredded monterey jack or manchego cheesedivided
1/4cupchopped cilantro [reserve 1 Tbsp for the top]
1/2cupfrozen petite peas
10-12medium/large raw shrimp peeleddeveined, tails removed [optional]
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium size pot, cook the diced pepper and onion in a couple of drizzles of olive oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes until they begin to soften and brown. Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute. Season with salt and black pepper to your taste.
Add the dry saffron rice and the amount of water called for on the package to the cooked veggies.
Prepare the rice per the instructions on the package being careful not to overcook. Remove from the heat and cool.
In a large mixing bowl stir together the cooked rice, chopped chicken, sausage, shrimp [if using] tomatoes, soup, sour cream, olives, cilantro and 1 cup cheese.Mix well.
Next, add the frozen peas and 1 cup of shredded cheese. Mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust the salt and black pepper to your taste.
Pour into the baking dish, and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven, and sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 cup shredded cheese.
Return to the oven and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes longer until bubbly and the cheese has melted.
Garnish with pesto if desired.
Paella is often served with a parsley or cilantro pesto that includes toasted almonds or pine nuts. For a shortcut you can garnish with toasted almonds instead. The crunchy nutty flavor really compliments the spicy flavors in this dish.