Wandering the aisles at Winco the other night, I noticed spaghetti cleared from the shelves—one of Portland's more peculiar panic-shopping casualties. Assuming noodles don't become post-coronapocalyptic currency, you're going to need some ideas to break out from the rut of meatballs and jarred marinara.
This recipe is adapted from Diana Kennedy's sopa seca de fideo found in her Recipes From the Regional Cooks of Mexico. I consider Diana a mentor, and I am proud to have gotten to cook with her and spend time learning from her. No one has done more to promote Mexican food in the English language than she. Her recipes are always interesting, traditional, well-researched—and, most importantly, delicious.
Her fideo recipe uses fine vermicelli noodles, but you could also use angel hair pasta. In either case, the pasta will cook more quickly. She also bakes the pasta after it simmers on the stove top, covering it in cheese and sour cream first, but I've simplified the recipe to make it a one-pan dish.
While in Mexico this would be served as a pasta or soup course, such as part of a comida corrida at a cocina economica, there's no reason this can't be a main course, especially if you tossed some shredded chicken, pork or beef in with the fried pasta when you simmer it. Personally, I like it with a side of scrambled eggs—or, even better, huevos à la mexicana. But that's another recipe.
- ½ cup oil (anything but extra virgin olive or motor oil)
- 8 ounces spaghetti
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ medium yellow or white onion
- 3 cups canned tomatoes with liquid (fire roasted preferred)
- 3 chipotles (from a can of “chipotles en adobo”), rinsed and seeds removed
- 1 cup sour cream (Mexican style preferred)
- ½ cup grated queso fresco
- Salt to taste
- Water as necessary
1. Place a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot and begins to shimmer, break the spaghetti in half so the pasta easily fits in the skillet and add it to the oil, stirring to coat. Continue sauteeing until the pasta is a deep, golden brown, stirring as needed to keep the spaghetti from burning, about 10 minutes.
2. While the spaghetti is browning, place the garlic, onion and tomatoes with liquid and chipotles in a blender or food processor and puree until very smooth.
3. When the spaghetti is finished browning, remove the pasta from the skillet. Turn up the heat on the skillet to medium high and add the pureed sauce. Stir the sauce to keep it from burning on the bottom and continue cooking it until the red color darkens and the raw flavor of the onions mellows, about 10 minutes. Salt to taste.
4. Add the fried spaghetti back to the skillet, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Simmer about 10 minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the pasta. Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium. Continue cooking, occasionally flipping or folding the pasta—rather than just stirring—until all the liquid has been absorbed and the spaghetti is fully cooked, no longer starchy, and tender but not mushy. Add water and continue cooking if the pasta remains undercooked.
To simulate Diana's recipe more closely but still keep this a one-pan dish on the stovetop, you can turn up the heat to high when it is finished absorbing the liquid to give it a light crust of toasted tomato sauce on the bottom. If you're really daring, you can even attempt to flip the entire mass of pasta in one piece and brown the other side.
5. Serve liberally, even excessively, covered with sour cream and queso fresco.
Nick Zukin is the owner of Mi Mero Mole, 32 NW 5th Ave., 971-266-8575. See mmmtacospdx.com for delivery options.