Fideos Is the Love Child of Paella and Noodles That Is Endlessly Riffable
Chef Ken Oringer of Toro shows us how to turn leftovers into a one-pot dish that has all the best elements of pasta and paella.
Photography by Farideh Sadeghin
Say you’re drunk and hungry. You could just eat a packet of ramen—or you could level up and make a bomb-ass noodle dish that takes just a few minutes longer and simultaneously cleans out your kitchen.
You probably have some pasta in the back of the pantry; if it’s been there for a while, maybe that angel hair is a little broken (that’s a good thing, so keep reading). In the fridge, you’ve got some stragglers, like a lone piece of bacon or a leftover rotisserie chicken or vegetables you’re not sure what to do with. You’ve definitely got mayo. Sure, your inclination might be to let those things linger until your next fridge clean-out. Don’t do that. Instead, turn it all into fideos, the one-pan pasta dish that’ll make you feel like king of the drunk snacks.
Who better to guide us through this than chef Ken Oringer? Over the many years that he's run the tapas restaurant Toro—with locations in Boston and New York—Oringer has honed his knowledge of Spanish cuisine. He and chef and business partner Jamie Bissonnette are pros at sophisticated late night snacks—their newest restaurant Little Donkey serves global small plates that include pizza bagels with Spanish chorizo and king crab nachos.
Bissonnette and Oringer stopped by the MUNCHIES test kitchen to walk us through some of their favorite pastas, including this Spanish-inspired dish. Fideos is sort of like paella, but with thin, broken-up noodles instead of rice. This version is Oringer’s own spin, so it’s not meant to be too traditional.
Oringer makes the MUNCHIES crew a seafood-heavy version, but he says you can mix and match the whole thing. “When we make fideos, we just kind of wing it,” Oringer tells us. “From start to finish, it takes like ten minutes. I don’t think we’ve ever made the same fideos twice. It’s like chili—you can just throw in whatever you have.”
The non-negotiables in this dish are thin, broken noodles; a tasty broth; garlic and onion; aioli (i.e., that mayo on the fridge door); and something to season it all. “The bare minimum is a flavorful broth and an element—whether instant ramen powder, or canned sardines, whatever it is—to make angel hair pasta absorb as much flavor as it can in the quick time it takes to cook.”
There's a lot that went into Oringer’s fideos here in the Test Kitchen, but just remember that you can go big and follow this recipe, or you can run with the formula to craft a less-fancy version that’s just as dope.
Feeling ambitious, though? Here what Oringer added to our fideos: onion confit, chorizo, scallions, ssamjang (a thick, spicy paste from Korea), red bell peppers mixed with Calabrian chilies, lobster and chicken stock, pimenton, sofrito (a cooked-down mixture of onions, tomatoes, and garlic), fried garlic, saffron, Chinese cauliflower, parsley, sea urchin, and clams.
No matter what flavor elements you go with, you'll also want a big pot. Oringer says any large saute or casserole pan will do. To this, he adds the dried Spanish chorizo and fries it until some of the fat renders out. Next, he adds all the aromatics (onion confit, garlic, sofrito, and pimenton) and cooks them down in olive oil with a sprinkle of fried garlic (save some for sprinkling at the end).
RECIPE: Fideos Recipe
Once that’s lightly cooked, Oringer tears the cauliflower apart and throws it in, followed by the pasta. Though he’s using noodles from Spain meant specifically for this dish, you can just use angel hair pasta that’s been broken into short segments. Oringer cooks the noodles with the other ingredients until lightly toasted, likening it to making Rice-A-Roni.
Next comes the saffron, scallions, and clams, and then it's all topped it off with stock. Since he has both lobster and chicken, Oringer adds a mix of the two. (In the theme of “use what you’ve got,” Oringer’s business partner Jamie Bissonnette mentions that at home he uses a mix of water and canned sardines.)
“You wanna make sure when you add the liquid it’s just enough to cover. If you add more it’s kind of like pasta soup,” says Oringer. Let it simmer until the liquid has reduced. That shouldn’t take long, but you'll want to taste the pasta intermittently to see when it’s done. Once the liquid has absorbed into the noodles, Oringer takes it off the heat and finishes it off with toppings.
He throws on finely chopped parsley, uni, fried garlic, and lemon zest, then adds dollops of ssamjang and aioli. "That’s another constant, I think, with any fideos," says Oringer. "You always want aioli, so you get that creamy finish. That's another difference between paella and aioli: you would never serve aioli with paella, but its always with fideos."
The pan doesn't even make it to the table—as soon as the heat is off, we all go in instantly with forks in hand. There's a lot going on here. Everything is salty, briny, and super flavorful, and the creamy aioli takes the already rich dish even richer. None of us are hungover, but if we were, this would turn things right around.