Sopa Seca... Mexican Style. If you've ever looked for an alternative to the well known spanish rice, well, you might want to try the noodle variation called Sopa Seca. A meatless dish, Sopa Seca is usually tomato based, though you will find plenty of variations. I've even seen a variation where the tomatoes are swapped out for tomatillos.... would love to try that next time, as it sounds interesting! And while there are a ton of variations of the Sopa Seca, I rather like this simple version I'm posting today.
Traditionally Sopa Seca is mostly used as a side dish, but I prefer to make it into a meal by adding a few fresh toppings. So simple... and so delicious! Interestingly the Sopa Seca is very similar to the Spanish dish called Fideua.
The dish starts out as a "soup", mainly because stock is added... just as you would whenever making any type of soup. The "Seca" (dry) part of the dish comes about when the stock is fully absorbed into the noodles, cooking and softening them. And it's only then that the dish becomes a "dry" sort of "soup". Even though you can make the dish with a bit of moisture (adding more stock), I rather like the pasta to fully absorb all the liquid... and as it sits, it will continue to dry up even more.
When the noodles become quite dry, they almost remind me of the stir-fried noodles found at most Asian fast food restaurants... except in this case, the noodles have a tomato flavor. To offset the "dryness" of the noodles (and make a meal of it), I like to top the noodles with a few fresh ingredients....
I reserve a bit of the tomatoes from the tomato sauce in the dish and add some diced avocado along with some chopped cilantro. I then grate some feta over the whole dish, but you can use some crumbled cotija, asadero, queso blanco or other Mexican type cheeses. However, I find feta goes extremely well with the tomato flavor. And while I added a tiny amount of feta in the photos above, I did end up adjusting the amount on our plates afterwards... by adding a few more gratings:). Hope you enjoy...
You will need:
8 oz dried capellini pasta, broken in thirds (or vermicelli)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large Roma tomatoes, diced, reserving 1/3 cup diced for topping
1 small onion, diced small
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 tsp dried guajillo chile powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne, optional
1 tsp sugar, to balance out acidity
1 3/4 -2 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper, as needed
reserved diced tomatoes from above
1. Make tomato sauce by adding all sauce ingredients in a food processor. Process till sauce is slightly chunky but fully combined. Set aside.
2. Add oil in a large frying pan (with lid). Fry the capellini (or vermicelli) on all sides in hot oil until golden brown in color. Make sure it doesn't burn... this process is rather quick. Remove from pan.
2 In the same oil, add the reserved tomato sauce. Cook till sauce has reduced and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3 When broth is boiling, add vermicelli and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the vermicelli has soaked up the liquid, about 20-30 minutes.
Half way through the cooking, I lifted the lid and turned some of the pasta that was on top with the pasta that was on the bottom, this way the pasta cooks evenly. If you feel the pasta has soaked up all of the stock and still needs cooking, you can add a bit of stock, as needed, and continue to cook until pasta is cooked through to your liking... I prefer mine al-dente and not mushy.
4. Top with favorite toppings.