Mexican Spaghetti ~ Sopa Seca de Fideo

This Mexican spaghetti, or sopa seca de fideo, is authentic as heck and mindblowingly seductive. Translated literally, it means “dry soup with noodles.” It’s soooo much better than it sounds.

A platter of Mexican spaghetti, topped with crumbled cheese with a torn piece of bread and white sauce on the side.

Commonly dubbed “Mexican spaghetti,” sopa seca de fideo is a traditional Mexican dish made by lightly frying thin noodles in oil to lend the dish a toasted flavor before smothering the noodles in a chipotle-spiked tomato sauce. (Actually, the chipotle isn’t always included, although frankly we can’t imagine this plate of noodles being anywhere near as compelling without it.) Though the noodles are traditionally served as a first course, we don’t think we can show enough restraint to not demolish a main course serving. Plain pasta with simple tomato sauce just met some serious competition.–Angie Zoobkoff

Are fideo noodles the same as spaghetti?

Fideo noodles are slender pasta strands similar to vermicelli or angel hair pasta. In Mexico City, they come in various sizes with the most common length about 1 inch. You’ll find fideo noodles at Mexican grocery stores or in the Hispanic foods aisle of some mainstream grocery stores. You can substitute vermicelli or angel hair pasta broken into whatever size lengths your recipe requires or you desire.

Mexican Spaghetti | Sopa Seca de Fideo

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  • Serves 4 to 6
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  • For the fideo noodles
  • To garnish and serve


Make the fideo noodles

Fill a medium saucepan 2/3 full with water and add the tomatoes. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat and cook until the tomatoes are softened, 7 to 10 minutes. The skins may split before the tomatoes are softened and that’s okay, just reduce the heat to low. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes to a small bowl and let them cool for a few minutes. Reserve the pot of cooking water.

When the tomatoes have cooled, use your fingertips to slip off the skins as you hold each tomato over the bowl. (They’ll slip off quite easily.) Add the peeled tomatoes, along with any juices left in the bowl, to a blender along with the garlic, onion, and 1/2 cup reserved cooking water. Blend on high until very smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix together the minced chipotle, adobo sauce, and brown sugar or grated piloncillo.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to a large skillet set over medium heat. (We recommend using the deepest, widest skillet you have as the fideo noodles like to jump out of the pan!) When the oil is hot, scatter half the noodles in the pan, stirring almost constantly and reducing the heat if they brown too quickly, until the noodles are a deep golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Move to paper towels to drain. Wipe out the pan and repeat with 1 more tablespoon oil and the remaining noodles.

Wipe the pan clean once more and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium to medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, carefully pour in the tomato purée (stand back as it may splatter) and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce no longer tastes of raw onion and garlic, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chipotle paste and taste for seasoning. (Canned chipotle en adobo can vary in acidity, depending on the brand. Make sure to taste and, if desired, add a little more sugar or adobo sauce to make it sweeter or hotter.)

Add the fried noodles and cook over medium-low heat until they absorb nearly all the sauce, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup reserved cooking water from the tomatoes and cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the noodles are al dente, about 3 minutes longer. Taste the noodles—if they’re still too crunchy or chewy for your taste, add more of the reserved cooking water in 1/4 cup increments, allowing the liquid to absorb the liquid before adding more.

Garnish and serve

Divide the fideo noodles and sauce among plates and pass the crema, crumbled cheese, avocado slices, and chicharrón, if using, on the side.  Originally published on March 15, 2017.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Sopas secas (dry soups) are a class of Mexican dish typically served as a first course. The sopa seca we are most familiar with in the U.S. is the ubiquitous red rice served at every Mexican restaurant. But sopas secas can also be made with other ingredients, such as pasta or tamales, and sopa seca de fideos, made with short pieces of extremely fine pasta, is a classic.

Use the chipotle, if you like, or leave it out for a milder dish. If you use it, as I did, the avocado garnish makes a nice cool counterpoint to the heat. I used gluten-free fideos (from the Harisín line made by Sanaví in Spain), so others' results might differ, but I had no problem with them burning while frying and found the timing for cooking the pasta in the sauce to be accurate. I did add some additional water (1/2 cup), as the sauce started to dry out before the noodles were done.

I had put the meal on the table and was still racing around taking care of a few last things before commencing to eat. As I reentered the dining room, before I had even sat down, my husband greeted me with, “This is a Tester’s Choice.” And he was correct.

The chipotles (it took four canned chiles to get me the 2 tablespoons minced) provided a base layer of heat that was discernible but not intrusive. The noodles (I did need the additional 1/2 cup water) cooked perfectly in the sauce and had a lovely texture.

My only gripe with the recipe is the difficulty of taking the last of the fried noodles out of the pan to wipe it down. It took as long to get a batch of noodles out of the pan onto paper towels as it did to cook them. I don’t know how to make this any easier without using 3 separate skillets. I’d imagine that making this repeatedly would make it a bit quicker and easier to prepare. I guess I'll find out!


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  1. I have lived in Mexico for the last 40+ years and am I professional food writer here. The article about fideos, as well as a comment or two, mention that sopa seca is served as a meal’s first course. In fact, sopa seca is always the SECOND course of a full comida (the main meal of the day in Mexico), following sopa aguada (liquid soup) and preceding the main course.

  2. The comments on your recipes are as useful as the recipes themselves. I had never heard of piloncillo but it was easy enough to find out it that it is pure cane sugar. I have also never encountered fideo but some of the alternates suggested are in my pantry. I have pinned this recipe with a note to read the comments. I never can tell what comment might turn a recipe from a disaster to dinner!

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