Fideo Seco with Guajillo Chile, al Estilo Oaxaca
The first time I visited Oaxaca in 2006, it was truly a trip for my tastebuds. Tlayudas, tetelas, and tejate were all new to me. The dish that I dreamed about for over 15 years though, was fideo seco and after much trial and error, I’ve finally perfected the recipe!
WHAT IS FIDEO SECO?
Not to be confused with sopa de fideo, also known as sopita, which is soupy, this Mexican pasta recipe works well as a side dish or main entree when served with all of the toppings. It is prepared similar to Mexican red rice, only this dish uses dry fideo noodles that are first toasted in oil and then simmered with a tomato-based broth until all of the liquid is absorbed. Just so we’re clear, this is not, I repeat, NOT sopa de fideo on day two after it absorbs all of the broth (if this happens to you and you want to know the secret to keeping your sopa de fideo nice and soupy, check out my 5 tips and tricks to the perfect sopa de fideo).
ARE VERMICELLI AND FIDEO THE SAME THING? WHAT ABOUT ANGEL HAIR PASTA?
Fideo simply translates to “noodle,” and is similar to Italian vermicelli in shape. Both are made out of wheat and water, but fideo is cut into shorter, 1-inch pieces and sold in small, 7-ounce bags. For many Mexican recipes, fideo noodles are toasted in oil, which brings out a rich, nutty flavor and is an essential step that prevents the noodles from absorbing all of the liquid when used in soups.
For fideo seco, I like to use the thicker Mexican pasta that is simply labeled, “Fideo.” I avoid the thinner noodles labeled, “Vermicelli,” because they burn too easily in this recipe. I have seen recipes that recommend using angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti noodles, both of which I have tried and neither of which I recommend. These recipes suggest breaking these pastas into smaller pieces to make them easier to fry. This ends up creating a huge mess and they’re never small enough to fry properly. So just do what you need to do to get the Mexican pasta labeled, “fideo”! Only fideo creates the texture and flavor I like for this recipe.
WHERE CAN I BUY FIDEO?
Most Mexican grocery stores carry an infinite variety of Mexican pastas, including fideo. You may also be able to find it in the Hispanic food aisle or your local grocery store (I have even found it at my Super Target in the suburbs) and it typically costs no more than $1 per 7-ounce bag. Talk about a budget meal!
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE MEXICAN TOMATO SAUCE FOR FIDEO SECO
There are different ways to make this sauce, and my preferred method is to coarsely chop the ingredients and saute everything until the mixture looks like a thick jam before blending and jarring it. This brings out each ingredient’s full flavor.
Alternatively, you can blend the tomatoes, onion, and garlic and then “fry” the sauce in oil until it changes color (you’re looking for a deeper orange color), reduces slightly, and is no longer raw. Either way works and once it’s thoroughly cooked, you can use it or jar and freeze it.
Any type of tomato works well in this recipe. If you don’t have access to fresh tomatoes when making this recipe, diced or whole canned tomatoes would also work.
HOW TO MAKE FIDEO SECO
There are two main steps in making this dish successfully. The first is to make a flavorful tomato sauce. I prefer making mine from scratch, because with such a simple dish, you want to infuse as much flavor as possible into the noodles, which is why I use my Mexican Tomato Sauce recipe. The tomato sauce consists of tomatoes, onion, and garlic. When I’m replicating the flavors from Oaxaca, I also add guajillo or chipotle chile to add a little kick.
Can I use regular canned tomato sauce, you ask? No. It doesn’t provide the same flavor necessary to make this dish shine, but like I mentioned above, you can use canned whole or diced tomatoes in place of the fresh tomatoes to make your sauce.
Once your homemade sauce is ready, it’s game time!
The second step in making fideo seco is to toast the noodles in oil, low and slow, until they’ve changed from golden in color, to a darker brown, without burning them. The trick here is to constantly stir your noodles.
Once your fideo is toasted to perfection, it’s time to mix in your tomato sauce along with chicken or veggie broth and bring it to a boil before lowering the heat, covering, and simmering until all of the liquid is absorbed.
HOW TO SERVE FIDEO SECO
Like many Mexican dishes, fideo seco is one that is best served with all of the fun garnishes. A few of my favorites include:
Thinly sliced or chopped red onion
Crumbled queso fresco
I typically only garnish the entire pot if I’m hosting a crowd and know that it’s going to finish, otherwise I just let everyone add what they like so that I can store the leftovers without the fresh garnishes.
FIDEO SECO RECIPE
PREP TIME: 5 minutes COOK TIME: 45 to 60 minutes SERVES: 6 to 8
½ cup diced white onion, about 1 small onion
3 medium garlic cloves, mashed
1 pound tomatoes, about 3-4 medium Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 dry guajillo peppers, stems removed and cut into 1-inch pieces or 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, optional
3 tablespoons oil
2 7-ounce packages of fideo (medium, not thin)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Salt, to taste
Avocado, sliced or cubed
Red onion, sliced or diced
Queso fresco, crumbled
TOOLS, SUPPLIES, EQUIPMENT
Large heavy pot (cast iron if possible) with a lid, it can be large but doesn’t have to be deep
Silicone or wooden spatula
First, heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add onion and separate into smaller pieces until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Light browning of onions adds flavor.
Next, add garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until soft.
Reduce heat to low-medium and add tomatoes, optional guajillo peppers, and salt. Cover and simmer until mixture is jam-like in texture and ingredients are no longer raw, about 30 minutes.
Next, in a separate large pot, add 2 more tablespoons of oil over low-medium heat. Once hot (test with one noodle – it should simmer when added to the oil), add fideo and toast until browned. Using a spatula, stir frequently to avoid burning. If noodles start to turn dark brown in color, remove pot and lower heat before resuming. Noodles should brown slowly and gradually over the course of approximately 6-10 minutes.
Add 3 cups of broth and 1 to 1½ cups of homemade tomato sauce to your noodles and stir. Taste and adjust for salt before stirring one last time. Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Once you can just begin to see the noodles through the tomatoey broth, lower to lowest heat, cover, and simmer until liquid is fully absorbed, after about 25 minutes. Do not be tempted to open the lid until after your timer has gone off!
Serve hot with as many or as few garnishes and you’d like! I top mine with a drizzle of crema Mexicana, sliced avocado, thinly sliced red onion, a sprig of fresh cilantro, and crumbled queso fresco. I reheat it the next day and top it with a fried egg for breakfast!
Photography + Styling: Cacey McReavy