In the old-fashioned "fondas" scattered around Mexico, diners usually find only a handful of tables and simple, comforting dishes. A three-course lunch at many of these unpretentious mom-and-pop eateries can cost as little as a few dollars.
One of those courses might well be sopa de fideos, a much-loved soup of thin noodles lightly browned in oil, then simmered in a puree of chicken broth with roasted tomato, onion, garlic and jalapeño. The result is a smoky, spicy vegetarian soup that can easily stand on its own as a full meal -- and one that comes together with pantry ingredients in less than half an hour.
Traditional recipes often call for roasting fresh tomatoes before adding them to the soup, but in this recipe from our book "Cook What You Have," which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight meals, we mimic those flavors with canned fire-roasted tomatoes.
If you have only regular canned tomatoes (whole or diced) in the pantry, they'll work fine but will lack the smoky subtleties. Vermicelli or capellini pasta work in this recipe, but the noodles should be broken to make toasting them easier. To do so easily, place them in a zip-top plastic bag and seal, then snap them into 1- to 2-inch pieces.
Chopped fresh cilantro, red onion, diced avocado, crumbled tortilla chips and crumbled queso fresco are all common toppings that lend lovely color and texture. Any combination or all of them will enhance your soup.
MEXICAN NOODLE SOUP WITH FIRE-ROASTED TOMATOES
Start to finish: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
1/2 medium white OR yellow onion, halved
3 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 jalapeño chilies, 1 stemmed, halved and seeded, 1 stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
14 1/2-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes OR diced tomatoes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces vermicelli OR capellini, broken into 1- to 2-inch pieces
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
In a blender, combine the onion, garlic, the halved jalapeño, tomatoes with juices and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping the jar as needed; set aside.
In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the noodles and cook, tossing often with tongs, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Carefully stir in the puree and the broth (the liquids may splatter). Bring to a simmer over medium-high and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the noodles are tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
Off heat, taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with the sliced jalapeño.
Optional garnish: Chopped fresh cilantro OR chopped red onion OR diced avocado OR crumbled tortilla chips OR crumbled queso fresco OR a combination
For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball's Milk Street at 177milkstreet.com/ap