I’m not sure how I first discovered this Spanish dish, but I specifically remember that it was one of the first recipes I ever learnt to cook by myself. Having just turned 15, I had recently become home-schooled and found that with spending more time at home came a keen interest in cooking. I launched myself with a frenzy into exploring every aspect of the kitchen and exploring many dishes that I’d never heard of before – including fideua! I made the dish regularly while I was still living in my childhood home, but in the years since it was forgotten. Coming back to the dish now felt like an epiphany.
Fideua originated in Valencia, on the Eastern coast of Spain. It’s a variant of the more famous Paella, a dish of short, round grain rice cooked in a spice and saffron infused broth along with vegetables and meats or seafood. The story goes that Fideua was invented because a Captain of the ship liked rice dishes so much he would eat it all and leave none for everyone else – so they made it with pasta instead, hoping that finally they would get to eat some! The experiment was a success and fideua was born.
Obviously, this is not a traditional fideua recipe. I’ve adapted the dish to be vegetarian and vegan friendly while keeping the basis the same. Purists would say that this is not a fideua as it doesn’t contain any of the classic seafood – but it tastes delicious and uses the same method of cooking, so in my opinion it’s a great way to enjoy traditional Spanish food!
“Just like in the creation of Fideua itself, great dishes are born from adapting the traditional into the extraordinary.”
This dish uses the extremely thin and light Angel Hair pasta in place of the traditional yet much harder to find fideos pasta. It’s broken into pieces and lightly roasted in olive oil to give a much greater depth of flavour, which is further highlighted when toasted in the oven to give a delightfully crispy top to the pasta.
It’s heavily spiced with the smokiness and gentle heat of smoked paprika powder, a mainstay in Spanish foods. I’m not usually a fan of using meat substitutes in my dishes, but here the sausages work to give a ‘meatiness’ to the dish and perfectly compliment the smokey paprika. To add a final umami and depth of flavour to the entire dish, I opted to make a broth from dried porcini mushrooms which adds an astonishing amount of richness.
Isn’t that lovely? Straight from the oven, the top layer of pasta should be crispy and charred. Underneath is the soft, saucy pasta coated in the delicious paprika, poricini and tomato sauce. Serve it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil – or the traditional garlic aioli – and you have a meal which is both deeply comforting in the winter months and light enough to be enjoyed in the depths of summer.
Vegan Fideua - One Pot Paprika Spiced Spanish Pasta
This is practically a one-pot recipe, making it extremely easy, quick (under 30 minutes cook time!) and packed full of rich, meaty, fresh flavour.
- 120g Angel Hair Pasta (Often called Capelli d’Angelo), broken into quarters
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
- 50g Red Onion, diced or sliced
- 4 Cloves Garlic, diced
- 2 Vegetarian Sausages of your choice (Chorizo would fit with the dish but choose your favourite), cut into pieces
- 40g Mushrooms
- 20g Green Bell Pepper/Capsicum
- 80g Broccoli or Broccolini
- 1 Can of Chopped Tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 10g Dried Porcini Mushrooms, optional
- 200ml Water
- Curly Leaf Parsley, to serve
- Optional: To produce an ultra flavoursome broth for your fideua, soak 10g of dried Porcini mushrooms in 200ml hot water for 30 minutes. Once the mushrooms have soaked, extract them from the broth and rinse them, then set aside to use in the recipe later. Do not discard the broth, this is what we will use to cook the pasta. If you don’t have access to dried mushrooms, simply skip this step.
- Prepare the tomato sauce by pureeing the can of chopped tomatoes. I use a simple hand blender, but you can whatever you can. Once pureed smooth, set aside.
- To begin cooking, heat 1 tbsp of Olive Oil is a large wok or frying pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the broken strands of pasta and carefully fry until golden brown. Make sure to keep moving the pasta around the pan to avoid burning. Once done, set aside and turn off the heat.
- Add the further 2 tbsp of Olive Oil to the same pan over low-medium heat and add the onion. Saute gently for roughly 2 minutes, until the onion is becoming soft and translucent. At this stage add the minced garlic and cook for a further 1.5 minutes, until the garlic is a gentle golden brown and aromatic.
- Next add the chopped sausages, fresh mushrooms, dried mushrooms, bell pepper and broccoli. Turn the heat to medium and stir fry until the vegetables are just charred and have infused with the garlic oil. Next add the tomato puree we made earlier, along with the spice seasonings of black pepper, salt, and paprika. Mix everything thoroughly and turn the heat to medium to bring the thick mixture to a simmer.
- Once simmering, add the prepared broth from soaking the mushrooms to the pan. Otherwise, add 200ml of vegetable stock or water as you prefer. Once you’ve added the stock, add the fried pasta as well and carefully mix everything. Cover the pan and leave to simmer for around 10 minutes, or until the noodles are mostly cooked.
- After 10 minutes has passed, turn off the heat and give the fideua a stir to distribute the vegetables evenly. Finely, add the pasta to a baking dish and spread out evenly. Place the dish until your grill for 2-3 minutes, or until the pasta is slightly browned on top and the sauce has evaporated. Keep a careful eye on the pasta so as to make sure you’re not overcooking.
Serve the fideua hot from the oven with fresh parsley on top and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or the traditional garlic aioli and a slice of lemon.
Tip: If you would rather than a comparatively mild tasting broth, soak the dried porcini mushrooms in room temperature water instead. This releases less of the mushrooms essence and flavour into the broth. Instead, it re-hydrates the mushrooms and preserves most of their flavour inside them, resulting in a less potent broth but more concentrated flavour bursts in the mushrooms.
Because this is not a traditional recipe, there is quite a lot of room for movement in so far as the ingredients go. I would recommend that you cook this dish according to my recipe and then adapt it as you want – for example, broccoli is an easily accessible vegetable here in the UK, but the flavour of asparagus or the more traditional artichoke hearts would also pair perfectly with the overall dish. You can use red bell peppers instead of green for a slightly sweeter end result, or stir through fresh thyme instead of parsley to finish. As with most Mediterranean food, the success of a dish hinges on good olive oil and the freshest of ingredients – so use whatever is seasonal and local to you at the time.