Fideos. Photo by Liddie Martinez
By LIDDIE MARTINEZ
All world travelers have seen pasta dishes representing the cultures of the world with recipes varying from Italian Spaghetti to German Spätzle to Chinese Chow Mein.
It is an inexpensive comfort food that is accessible to all pocketbooks. Pasta dishes have become somewhat universal although the origins of pasta can be traced back to 500 B.C. pre-Ancient Rome and the Etruscan civilization.
Shared widely by the Etruscan’s, everybody wants to lay claim to its invention including Marco Polo enthusiasts who claim he brought it to Italy from China. There are many theories and while much debate could be had about the origins of pasta in Europe and Asia, there is no debate about its arrival in the Americas in the 1500s with the Spanish.
The oldest written recipes for Spanish pasta were found in the fine Andalusian kitchens of southern Spain and were for sopa de fideos made in cazuelas (casseroles) as early as the thirteenth century. Portable, versatile, and inexpensive to make, this dish has been providing comfort to native New Mexicans for over 400 years.
Sopa de Fideos is the Spanish pasta dish found all over New Mexican kitchens; a dish every Native New Mexican loved as a child and makes now for their children and grandchildren relaying those stories told by Grandmas in aprons of simpler times.
This pasta dish is not sauced after the fact but toasted brown and then gently simmered in the sauce as it cooks to absorb the delicious flavor of the broth. My mother and grandmother both used to make this dish as soon as fresh peas were available in the Española Valley. Not only do the peas provide an interesting texture and sweetness to the dish, the vibrant green color is inviting and pleasing to the eye.
Make some while fresh peas are available!
1 Pound Ground Beef, extra lean
1 Pound Fideo Noodles or Vermicelli Nests
½ Onion, chopped
1 Cup Tomatoes, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
3 Cups Chicken Stock
2 Cups Tomato Juice
½ Cup Fresh or Frozen Peas
2 Tablespoons Butter, divided
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a large skillet heat half the olive oil and half the butter over medium heat. Place all pasta nests or noodles in a single layer to brown for a couple of minutes on each side and remove from pan.
Add remaining oil and butter and brown beef with onions until onions are transparent. Add garlic, tomatoes, stock and juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes or until tomatoes collapse then place nests in broth and cook for 5 minutes, turn nests over, add peas and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and allow to set for 5 minutes covered before serving.