10 October 2008

Fideos or Fidellos - the recipe

Both Thomas MacEntee and Sally Jacobs asked about my mention of Fidellos in my menu for our erev Yom Kippur dinner. Thomas has asked before about other recipes, and I've been too busy to provide them. I apologize. Hope this one makes up for the past.

Wrote Thomas:

Fidellos? Interesting - since you mentioned it is Sephardic I am certain it must be related to the Catalan dish fideua which is what I describe as a paella made with elbow macaroni.

Wrote Sally:

I'd love to see your fidellos recipe someday...it sounds delicious!

I have many fond memories of breaking fast with family friends as a child. They were heirs to a large toy company and their basement rec room was stuffed to the gills with every toy imaginable. Even so, my *fondest* memories are of hot glass baking dishes bubbling hot from the oven and overloaded with cheese blinzes. Oh my oh my. I have to stop now.

Fidellos - sometimes called Fidellos de Tostados - are simply golden-brown sauteed noodle coils which are then simmered in chicken broth and/or crushed tomatoes. It can be served with a sauteed chicken, roast chicken or anything else. It can be a soft noodle dish, more like spaghetti, although it may also look like a kugel and sliced into wedges.

Why two spellings? Fideos or Fidellos: The double-L sounds like Y in Spanish and Catalan, so Fideos and Fidellos are voiced the same way. Fidellos is the Ladino term.

This is a very old Sephardic dish, found everywhere the Sephardim went (Greece, Italy, etc.). Because it is mild, it is great for the meal before Yom Kippur, providing carbohydrates for the long fast and not too salty or spicy, which would increase thirst.

Tomato dishes generally improve if made the day before, and I usually do this, reheating before serving. I add a dash of cinnamon when working with tomato dishes, such as this, as it adds another dimension. Just a dash - too much will be overwhelming.

For the meaning of fidellos/fideos, Joyce Goldstein ("Sephardic Flavors") writes:

In Spain, fideos is a classic noodle dish prepared in the manner of paella. The noodles are sauteed to give them some color, then they are cooked in stock until the liquid is absorbed...In the Turkish book Sefarad Yemekleri, these fried noodles are called skulaka, and in some Greek cookbooks they are called fideikos. Fidellos is a Ladino term.

This is the basic recipe:

One 12-oz bag of fidellos or fideos, coiled nests of very thin pasta
1/2 cup good olive oil
2 cups peeled whole Italian tomatoes, diced (San Marzano or Muir Glen Organic are good brands)- Save all the liquid in the can and from dicing.
3 cups liquid (the juice from the tomatoes, with water or chicken stock added to make the total amount).
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
dash garlic powder
dash cinnamon

NOTE: Some fidellos come in 16-oz packages. If using that, increase liquid to 4 cups (tomato juice plus water or chicken stock). In any case, I prefer chicken stock to plain water for more flavor.

Heat olive oil in a 4 quart pot. Fry the noodle coils until golden brown on each side. Be very careful not to let them get dark brown or to burn. As they turn golden, remove to a plate covered with a paper towel (to drain off extra oil). When all the coils are toasted and removed, add the tomatoes, liquid and seasoning to the pan and bring to a boil. Add the noodle coils and immediately lower heat to very low. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes to soften the noodles. Stir occasionally with a long-handled fork to open up the coils and prevent sticking. Cook gently until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for another 10 minutes. Stir again and serve. I follow a recipe which includes a finely chopped sauteed medium onion (sauteed in the oil after the noodles are toasted)

While I serve this dish soft, the other method takes the noodles, after all the liquid is absorbed, and turns it into the serving dish, allowing the pasta to solidify into a cake or kugel-like consistency. Do this ahead of time. Reheat and cut into wedges to serve, but it can also be eaten at room temperature.


  1. Anonymous10:51 AM

    I grew up on this dish, and now my son is too!

  2. Thanks for posting this. My mother used to make this. She gave me a similar recipe before she died, but I stupidly put it in storage when we moved so I don't have it handy. Going to make it tonight to go with stuffed cabbage!