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How to Make Mexican Pasta
What do you think of "Sopa?"
Many families have a dish that is unique to their table. Many of my Litah’s recipes were well-known and traditional Mexican fare flavored by her own taste preferences. This dish, however, is one that I have never seen anywhere but at the table of my own family members. While I would be deeply surprised if it was truly unique to us, I am at least sure that it is very unusual in the areas I know well here in the southwestern United States.
This is a Mexican pasta dish cooked in a very similar way to how my Litah made Mexican rice, but the toasted pasta causes the flavor to come out in a completely different way. We have always called it “sopa,” which never made any sense to me as that means “soup” in Spanish. No one in my family can explain it, however, so I just continue the tradition.
In any case, this dish is always a hit with guests and it is one of the few dishes I make that never comes home again when I put it in a pot-luck dinner crock. If you’re looking for an alternative to Mexican rice and beans, you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s get started!
A Note on the Ingredients: No one in my family has ever used exact measurements for this recipe. As a result, it always comes out a touch differently each time I make it. The measurements I have given you provide a good place to start, but be sure to take it from there and adapt it to your own tastes!
- 7 oz. Vermicelli Pasta, broken into small pieces
- 1 Large Bunch Green Onions, around 2 cups chopped
- 1 Large or 2-3 Roma Tomato(es), around 1 1/2 cups chopped
- 2 Medium Cloves Fresh Garlic
- 1 1/4 tsp. Salt
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Menudo Mix, 1/4 is mild, 1/2 is spicy [substitue 1/4 tsp oregano + 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper if not available]
- Dash Pepper, more if you like it hot
- Dash Olive Oil, vegetable oil also works
- Water, the amount varies
A Note on the Instructions: Most of the written instructions below have a time-stamp on them referring to where you can find them in the instructional video.
- Place 7 oz. of vermicelli in a medium microwave-safe ceramic bowl: My Litah used to do this on the stove, as did I, but it takes a lot longer. The microwave is simpler and does not change the flavor in any way. NOTE: Be careful of plastic dishes. The vermicelli can heat up a lot in the microwaving process and I have had bowls scalded as a result—be careful. [Video Instructions—1:18]
- Add about a teaspoon of oil to the pasta and mix it, coating each piece lightly with oil: I like using olive oil, but any vegetable oil should do the trick. Take care not to use extra virgin olive oil, however, as that will have a very bad effect on the resulting flavor. [Video Instructions—1:40]
- Microwave the vermicelli uncovered on high for 1 1/2 minutes: Keep a close eye on this the first time through as microwaves vary quite a bit. 1 1/2 minutes should be a safe time to start. [Video Instructions—2:05]
- Stir the pasta, looking for a relatively even light golden-brown color: Toasting the pasta this way makes an important contribution to the final flavor. The darker the color is the stronger its effect, so experiment to find your own preferences. Be careful not to go too dark however, as the dish will then taste burnt. [Video Instructions—2:05]
- Continue microwaving the pasta in 30 second increments if it needs to be darker: It will generally take around 2 minutes to achieve the ideal browning. [Video Instructions—2:32]
- Chop the green onions:
- Dice the garlic very fine: Dicing the garlic as finely as possible will help the flavor. [Video Instructions—4:56]
- Put everything together in a medium pot. [Video Instructions—5:50]
- Add water until it reaches the top of the vegetables and pasta: The amount will vary slightly, but this approach always works. [Video Instructions—6:24]
- Add salt, pepper and Menudo Mix : Over time you will develop your own taste preferences for this dish, so alter these measurements as you see fit! [Video Instructions—6:45]
- Mix everything up. [Video Instructions—7:00]
- Leave the pot uncovered and turn the oven to high until the water boils. [Video Instructions—6:45]
- Turn the heat to medium high and let it cook without stirring for 10 to 15 minutes. [Video Instructions—7:18]
- When the water drops down to ¼ inch from the bottom of the pot, turn the burner off: Keep a sharp eye on the pot at this stage. The burner has to be turned off at the right time to keep it from burning. [Video Instructions—7:37]
- Leave the pot on the burner till all the water is gone: Leaving the pot on the burner will evaporate the last of the water without burning the pasta on the bottom of the pot. [Video Instructions—7:37]
- Enjoy! [Video Instructions—8:38]
How to Make Mexican Pasta
A Creative Option
“Sopa” makes a great side dish for any Mexican meal, but there are some other ways it can be eaten that are very effective.
Full Mexican Pasta Meal: Much like chicken and rice, you can mix Sopa up with taco meat and some cheese for simple and tasty main dish. I often do this with the leftovers and take them with me to work for lunch the following day—excellent!