Dinner Tonight: Fideo (Mexican Pasta with Vegetables and Chile)
Though it kind of looks like a regular bowl of pasta, this fascinating Mexican recipe from Doña Tomás differs from most Italian versions in two dramatic ways. Instead of being simply cooked in boiling water, the nests of dried angel hair pasta are first fried in oil. Once drained, they are tossed in a tomato sauce, where they slowly soften and absorb the sauce. The strands finish with a variety of different textures—some become tender while others remain slightly crispy—and give off a wonderful nutty aroma.
Of course, if you let the pasta fry too long it will go from golden to burnt in seconds, so be careful. It's also really important to avoid the straight strands of angel hair pasta; instead, look for the kind that are packaged in little nests. (I was lucky enough to find some at my local Mexican market.) The nests only need to fry from a few seconds, but it makes a huge difference.
I also love how a regular tomato sauce is perked up with the addition of diced onion, celery, and carrots. They lend some sweetness and some more crunch to each bite.