While paella has its legions of fans, it's the Catalan dish fideuà, using pasta instead of rice, which has my heart. I was not in Valencia, Spain, however, when I fell in love, but in Scottsdale, Arizona at the Spanish-influenced Prado eight years ago. Since Chef Claudio Urciuoli (now at Noble Eatery) cooked my first pan and I researched it, it's become one of my favorite dishes to make and as a participant in Fry's Taste of Spain campaign, I've finally been motivated to put the recipe to print.
Unlike paella which uses Calasparra or Bomba rice, fideuà is made with short lengths of thin, dried pasta or fideos (fideus in Valencian). Here in Arizona, this pasta is easy to find, especially in Mexican markets. Look for packages such as those pictured below, which can vary in thickness. You could also use angel hair or vermicelli pasta broken into 2-inch lengths. For this recipe serving two generously, I used a 7-ounce package of La Moderna fideo. I stock up when it is three for $1.00.
For the best flavor, you'll want to use quality saffron, Spanish dry-cured chorizo and smoked paprika/pimentón, and homemade stock. Note: Smoked paprika comes in dulce (sweet/mild), agridulce (bittersweet/medium-hot), and picante (hot).
I love the layered textures and flavors in fideuà - the soft, toasty pasta on the bottom soaked in the smoky broth and the crispy-chewy top flavored with briny seafood.
Approximately 2 cups of chicken or seafood stock (I like to use homemade lobster stock) - amount depends on the width of pasta used
2 lobster tails
1 pound of clams or mussels
6 large shrimp
1 link of Spanish chorizo cut into 10-12 slices
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
1 7-oz package of fideo pasta
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup dry Spanish white wine such as Albariño (optional)
1-1/2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped or one 14-oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon saffron
Optional garnishes: Chopped parsley; allioli/Spanish aioli (storebought or homemade); aceite de ajo y perejil/garlic-parsley oil (recipe here)
1. Peel shrimp, scrub clams, and split lobster tails in half lengthwise. Chill until needed.
2. Preheat oven to 400.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat and cook onion and garlic with bay leaf until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add wine. When evaporated, add smoked paprika and tomatoes. Simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick, about 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf, and set aside.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a paella pan or an ovenproof 12-inch shallow skillet over medium heat. Add sliced chorizo and saute for 30 seconds to render slightly and color oil. Add pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes until coated in oil and golden brown, stirring frequently to avoid burning.
5. Add half of the tomato mixture (the rest of the sofregit can be used to season other dishes, but I usually freeze for the next time I make fideuà), stock, and crumbled saffron. Raise heat and simmer covered for five minutes. Stir, taste, and season with salt and pepper. You may wish to add more saffron and/or smoked paprika.
6. Nestle seafood into pasta bed. Place clams hinge-side down and lobster cut sides up. Transfer to oven and bake uncovered until seafood is cooked, liquid is absorbed and top of pasta is crisp, 10-20 minutes. You may need to add more liquid.
7. Optional: Garnish with smoked paprika sea salt, Espelette pepper, and aceite de ajo y perejil parsley oil (recipe here).
I've made this with just shrimp, with chicken and chorizo, and vegetarian (try artichokes, piquillo peppers and mushrooms).
To serve 6, use a larger pan and double the pasta, seafood, and stock (use the full amount of tomato mixture instead of half).
Do-ahead: I make the stock weeks earlier and freeze, toast the pasta earlier in the day, and prep the tomato mixture and garlic-parsley oil 1-3 days ahead. The garlic-parsley oil can be used for easy pre-dinner tapas such as tossed with mushrooms, shrimp, or chicken wings.
For a dinner party, I place the pan in the middle of the table and let guests serve themselves. At home, my husband prefers the seafood taken out of its shell and tossed with the pasta and a little allioli.
If some seafood is cooked through before others, simply remove and tent with foil. Replace for presentation, or toss with pasta when serving. Note: Because these clams were larger, I added them to the pan during step 2.
If pasta seems dry, add more liquid. If too wet, simply cook longer, removing seafood if needed, and returning to pan to serve.
If you want a more authentic soccarat (crispy crust on the bottom) finish the dish on the stove briefly over high heat.