Fideua has all the wonderful flavors of paella, but is instead made with short pasta. It’s packed with seafood and plenty of great flavor. You’ll be back for more!
I have mentioned before that many years ago I was lucky enough to live in Spain for a while. Twice, actually – the first time in Catalunya then a couple years later in Madrid. Both exposed me to many fantastic food experiences and in Catalunya in particular, I came across so many great, unique dishes. I was lucky in having a few friends who introduced me to lots of dishes and helped me learn what was a local specialty versus something from elsewhere in Spain.
I remember being pleasantly surprised by how many Catalan dishes there were as it’s not really a cuisine I had been aware of. Some things were incredibly easy (like the pan tomate I shared previously) while others, like this fideua, took a bit more time. But key to all were great fresh ingredients, and olive oil.
What is fideua?
Fideua is a traditional Catalan dish, similar in style to paella but made with short spaghetti-like pasta called ‘fideos’. Its base is a wonderful mix of fish stock and a smooth tomato-pepper sauce that the pasta soaks up as it cooks, taking on all of that deliciousness. Then it’s crammed with fish and seafood.
Fideua is one of those dishes that’s comforting in cold weather but also light enough for warm weather. Certainly warmer is more typical in Catalunya. It’s traditionally served with alioi (garlic mayonnaise) and a squeeze of lemon. Otherwise it’s a one pan meal (well, once you’ve made your stock, if you do, which I recommend).
We have made a number of Spanish and Catalan dishes that we have enjoyed in our family, from tapas like Spanish chickpeas and spinach and tortilla to romesco sauce. And fideua is another we love as well. After all, it’s a flavorful pasta dish so what’s not to love?
How it’s made
Making fideua does, like I say, take a little bit of time but it’s not a complicated dish by any means. You can make it a little quicker and easier by not making your own fish stock. However to be honest, it’s so easy and adds a great flavor I really wouldn’t suggest you skip this. You can also start making everything else while it’s cooking then add the stock when you need it a bit later.
To make the rest of the dish, you quickly cook and remove the fish and shrimp, then cook down the onion and pepper that forms the base of the dish. Then add in the garlic and fennel seeds, followed by the pasta, to take on the oils etc then cover it with stock and tomatoes. The pasta then cooks in this delicious mixture. The clams, fish and shrimp are added towards the end and once cooked, it’s served. You can vary the seafood and fish you add to taste or what you have available but these are a good mix.
Fideua, like paella, would traditionally be cooked outside on an open fire to add even more great flavor but even cooking indoors it’s a wonderfully tasty dish. It’s one that you make in as large a quantity as you need (or can fit in a pan) to share.
I have some great memories of enjoying fideua on the beach or at home with both friends and family. I hope you’ll give this dish a try and make some of your own memories – it’s certainly a delicious dish to add to your ‘to try’ list.
Fideua (Catalan pasta paella)
- 1 bronzini whole - also called dorada, often sold as sea bass in UK - ask for fillets removed but keep bones
- 1/2 lb shrimp/prawns 225g, shell on
- 1 stick celery
- 1 carrot small, cleaned but no need to peel or take ends off
- 2 stems parsley
- 1 sprig thyme
- 5 tbsp olive oil approx
- 1 Spanish onion
- 1 red pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 14 oz crushed tomatoes 400g, 1 can
- 2 small pinches around 15 threads saffron
- 12 oz pasta 340g, fideos/broken spaghetti
- 1/2 lb clams 225g
- Remove the shells from the shrimp/prawns and keep the shells.
- Make the stock by placing the fish bones, shells of the shrimp, celery, carrot, parsley stems, sprig of thyme and a small wedge of the onion in a pot and cover with water. You'll need to add around 4 cups/960ml water to the pot. Bring the pot to a boil and reduce to a simmer (covered).
- Meanwhile, finely chop the remaining onion, pepper and garlic.
- Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet/frying pan over a medium-low heat and fry the fish and shrimp gently until almost cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Clean out any stuck-on skin etc from pan, add the remaining oil and then the onion and pepper.
- Cook for around 10min, stirring now and then (turn lower after a few mins), then add paprika, garlic and fennel seeds.
- By now the stock should be ready; strain it to remove all the bones and vegetables and add the saffron to infuse.
- Cook the onions and spice mixture for 5 more minutes then add tomatoes.
- Cook a further few mins then add fideos (pasta). Stir well so that they are covered by the oily mixture and cook another couple minutes.
- Add the stock (3cups/750ml) to the pan, stir then leave to cook at a simmer for 10min.
- Stir then add the clams, pushing them under the liquid and pasta. Allow them to cook a minute and add the shrimp/prawns and fish as well. After about 5 mins the clams should open and all should be ready.
Try these other Spanish favorites:
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