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Fideos pasta is an unassuming pasta with a long and interesting history. The pasta is eaten throughout the Mediterranean, especially in Spain and Italy, and can sometimes be found abroad as well. Several distinct recipes use fideos, including soups and a pasta-based paella served in Spain. Food historians believe that fideos pasta may be one of the earliest incarnations of pasta, and it certainly has a well documented history.
In Spain, spaghetti pasta is sometimes called fideos, which can lead to confusion, since fideos is a distinct pasta shape. In Italy, fideos pasta is often called fidelanza or fedelini. Modern fideos is typically made from durum wheat. The pasta is short, thin, and slightly curved. This classic shape appears to have been retained for several centuries, as have recipes which use the pasta.
The history of fideos begins in the 13th century, when Spain had a large Muslim population. It appears to be a fusion food, closely related to couscous, a dish made with durum wheat which is very popular throughout the Middle East. A compendium of Muslim-Spanish cooking from the 13th century lists a dish called fidaush, which uses fideos pasta. The dish is distinctive because the noodles are cooked in their sauce, a convention which has been retained in many modern fideos recipes. Some European Jewish recipes also use fideos or very similar ingredients.
In Spain, fideos are cooked instead of rice in paella, especially in Southern Spain. This version of paella is very close to the medieval fidaush, and may be made with an assortment of ingredients. Seafood fideos is very popular, with shellfish such as clams and mussels being common inclusions. The pasta is cooked in a rich sauce with the seafood, and served directly from the cooking pot. The fideos pasta is usually toasted in oil before the other ingredients are added, just as is the case with rice in paella.
Many soups also use fideos, since the long thin strips of pasta add interesting visual and textural touches to the soup. In the United States especially, when fideos is available, it is usually sold specifically as a soup pasta. In this case, it may be enriched with egg for a more hearty flavor. Chunks of spaghetti broken into short lengths will also work well for this purpose. The pasta may be cooked separately and be added to the soup, or it may be cooked along with the soup, releasing starch to thicken it.
Fideos pasta in my area is generally overpriced, so I suggest buying angel hair pasta and breaking that up into the appropriate size. Spaghetti does work, but I find it is a bit too thick to give it the same texture is fideos pasta.
It is fun to mix various pasta shapes for texture if you are making a soup. I like to use a combination of fideos pasta and conchiglie to create a good look.
Just as a note, it can be a bit difficult to make sure all the pasta is cooked correctly if you are using pasta of different shapes, so it may take some practice to get the timing right.
If you enjoy Mexican food and eating at Mexican restaurants there is a good chance you have had a soup with fideos pasta in it. Often this kind of pasta soup is served before your mean as a starter.
You can make your own at home very simply, all you need is fresh fideos pasta, a large can of tomatoes, a chopped onion, a chopped clove of garlic, 2tbsp olive oil, three cans of chicken broth, and salt, pepper and cilantro to taste.
Use a blender on the tomatoes, chopped onion and garlic and blend until they are smooth.
Fry the pasta in the olive oil until golden brown.
Get a big pot, put in your blended sauce and seasonings, and add the chicken broth and noodles. Cook until the noodles are soft.
This tastes fantastic.
Does anyone have any other fideos pasta recipes they can share?