It must be difficult being a noodle in Spain. How can you stand up to the wonderful rice dishes that the Spaniards are known for. Almost every Spanish cookbook I own will have a section on Paellas*, and at the back of the section is maybe one (if lucky) recipe on the fideos. It doesn’t even get its own section! It’s a pity that fideos tends to take second place to the Paella when I think it is just as delicious – and for me, a much more forgiving dish!
Fideos, translated into english, refers to noodles – they are thin pieces of noodles, no longer than your thumb. Many recipes call for fideo noodles, there is no reason why you can’t use thin spaghetti or angel hair noodles, broken into 1.5 to 2 inch lengths. In my Mom’s restaurant they used to bake their fideos with pork spareribs and sausages but today I’ve decided to share with you my version – with mussels and prawns. A little bit healthier and just as good!
I like to think of fideos as the rebel dish. It breaks a lot of rules! Let me explain… with most pasta dishes you throw your noodles into a large pot of boiling water, enough water so that the pasta has enough space to float around. With fideos, traditionally they are made in a paella pan and only enough liquid is placed so that the noodles absorb the cooking broth resulting in a rich, and flavourful dish. When making a paella, I’ve been taught, once you add the broth, do not stir rice around. How many of us have been tempted to STIR when we were told NOT TO STIR?! Well, as I said, fideos is more forgiving – you stir the dish often enough until you see that the liquid has coated the noodles and seafood in an almost syrup like coating.
Traditionally fideos has been made with saffron. If you aren’t willing to spend on good quality saffron, I wouldn’t even bother putting it as inferior quality saffron will hardly make a dent in the taste. If you can’t get a hold of saffron, or don’t wish to shell out the money for it, I suggest you omit it completely.
Also, this is traditionally made in a paella pan. Tonight, I couldn’t be bothered and used a heavy based pan instead. It turned out just as well!
As I said – this dish breaks a lot of rules!
Recipe (for two)
- 120 grams fideos or dried angel hair pasta, broken into 2 inch lenghts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 2oo grams canned tomatoes, crushed
- 375 ml fish or chicken stock (good quality store bought is fine)
- 70 ml dry white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 large prawns, peeled and deveined
- a handful of mussels, cleaned and debearded OR you can use clams or a combination
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a pan with one tablespoon of olive oil and lightly fry the fideos noodles until golden brown but not burned. This should take around 5 minutes.
- Remove the noodles from the pan and set aside
- Next, add more olive oil and saute the onion and garlic until translucent.
- Add the sweet paprika and the canned tomatoes and cook until the tomato sauce is thick, this will take around 10 to 15 minutes.
- In a separate pan, heat the stock, white wine and the bay leaf. Once boiling, add this to the tomato sauce.
- Immediately add the noodles and stir frequently until the noodles have absorbed the liquid. This took me around 15 minutes.
- When you can see that the noodles are almost done, add the seafood and simmer gently for a minute or two until the prawns are cooked through and the mussels have fully opened.
- Serve immediately.
*Interestingly enough, what we have come to know as Paella the rice dish made with all sorts of wonderful toppings from seafood, chorizo, rabbit etc., actually refers to the pan in which they are made in. Over time however, people have started referring to the dish inself and not the pan as Paella.