Living thousands of miles away from family is hard. I can’t just pop over to Mom’s with a basket of fresh-baked scones on Mother’s Day, grab a quick latte with my little sister, or be there to support aunts, uncles and cousins in times of need.
What I can do to feel connected to family is cook foods that remind me of home – of childhood memories, family traditions and happy times. The perfect comfort food candidate? Fideyos, or toasted angel hair pasta cooked in chicken broth. My grandma Margaret used to make this ages-old Sephardic noodle recipe for us when I was little, and it was always one of my favorite dishes. (Meant to be a side dish, but for me it was the meal.)
To make fideyos, plain old angel hair pasta (preferably the kind in “nests”) is browned in a little vegetable oil, creating multiple shades of yum. The dark brown (almost burnt) pieces may have originally been a mistake, but now they’re a key part of the flavor profile in our family’s version. It’s amazing how the simple act of toasting the pasta in oil can transform its flavor (and transport me back to elementary school).
For years I’ve tried to recreate Margaret’s fideyos (the Ladino spelling of fideos, which is Spanish for noodles) to match those buried deep in my memory bank. No easy task for such an easy recipe! Here’s the version I transcribed from my Auntie Jeanne:
Typical of passed-down family recipes, this lacks exact quantities or cooking times. I had a hard time getting the salt level right, since there’s so much variation in chicken stocks. My latest solution? A single Knorr chicken bouillon cube added to the water. (For a vegetarian/vegan option, just use water and a little tomato sauce.)
In need of some comfort last night, I made a big pot of fideyos as I thought of my cousin Linda – one of the strongest and most inspirational women I know. It wasn’t as good as a visit and a hug, but the sentiment was the same. We love you, Linda.
Fideyos (Sephardic Comfort Noodles) Click Here for Recipe
Makes 4-6 servings
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 10- or 12-oz package* angel hair nests
- 4 cups water
- 1 Knorr chicken bouillon cube
- (optional: 2 tablespoons tomato sauce)
- Additional kosher salt to taste
To a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add oil and heat to shimmering.
Add pasta nests and toast until some pieces are dark brown, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
Add water and bouillon cube (or tomato sauce and 1 teaspoon salt) and stir gently until bouillon cube has dissolved.
Continue stirring occasionally until all liquid has been absorbed and pasta has cooked through. (About 8 minutes.)
Turn off heat and cover until ready to serve. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt, if desired.
Reheats well the next day. Recipe can be doubled if you use a big enough pot.
* Package sizes vary. If you use a 16-oz package, just add one more cup of water. You can also use straight angel hair or vermicelli – just break the noodles in half.