As I scheduled my first Cinco de Mayo post to publish bright and early on Monday morning, I felt guilty for choosing to avoid this one for awhile. I had the photos and the recipe text, after all. Why not just write it up? Under the guise of waiting for inspiration to strike, which really just meant I was procrastinating the best way to tell you I had nothing much to say two days in a row, I put it off.
As I was enjoying some of this very leftover Mexican noodle casserole for lunch, my hope that something worthwhile might present itself actually did come true. I had picked up a rather old copy of NewScientist magazine, and as I read, came across an entire article about the intricate mathematics of pasta noodles. Perhaps you already know all this. As I dug a little deeper, I found writers from The New York Times to The Huffington Post had covered the story.
The idea that each type of pasta is designed to work with a specific type of sauce has been rattling around my mind since I first started paying attention to all things food. What I learned today is architect George Legendre actually took the time to model each and every pasta shape he could find in the hopes that boiling something complex – in this case twisty pasta – down to basic math would uncover new ways to consider the union of engineering and design. As for my thoughts about pasta, I think I’ll stick with simple recipes.
The best description I can offer for Mexican noodle casserole is baked spaghetti with an intense sauce courtesy of chipotle peppers packed in adobo. I am not quite sure where this dish ranks in my list of dinner go-tos. Frankly speaking, I found it to be a bit dry for my preferences. This would be easily remedied, of course, by simply foregoing the step of baking.
I am holding out on you a bit when I say my only inspiration for this post was an 18-month old magazine article I happened to come across at lunch. I spent Monday evening at a writing workshop geared towards writing about food. We were encouraged, among many things, to think about metaphor. Knowing I would come home and write this post, I thought a lot about those smoky chipotles. I kept likening their heat to a smooth stone surface that holds the heat from a sunny day. It lingers, but it is not at all unpleasant.
If you uncertain about this ingredient in pasta, I first used chipotles in adobo while preparing a Sweet Potato Souffle for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. Since then, I have enjoyed their smoky flavor in both tomato sauces and tomato soup. I also stir a bit of the adobo in with sour cream from time to time to kick its flavor up a notch. I hope you will find good uses for them too.
This recipe, like yesterday’s, came from Saveur’s Mexico Issue. It includes plenty of helpful instructions aimed to make preparing popular Mexican dishes in your own kitchen, where ever it may be, a breeze. Until tomorrow, enjoy!Day 1: The Appetizer - Pumpkin Seed Salsa Day 2: The Main Dish Day 3: The Side Dish Day 4: The Drink Day 5: The Dessert
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 8 ounces fideos or vermicelli noodles (or other noodle similar to angel hair)
- 4 chipotles in adobo (from one can)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 (15-ounce) can peeled tomatoes and their juice
- ½ cup white onion, roughly chopped
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 cup crumbled Cotija or similar cheese (I used Feta)
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
- Break the noodles into three-inch pieces, and working in two batches, add the pasta. Cook each batch, stirring often, until lightly browned and toasted, about four minutes each.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the noodles to paper towels to drain.
- Purée the chipotles, garlic, tomatoes, and onion in a blender or processor until smooth.
- Add the tomato purée to the skillet (once all noodles are removed) and cook, until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 18 minutes.
- Add the stock and cook for one more minute.
- Now add noodles back to the skillet and stir to combine. (If your skillet is too small to adequately hold this amount of food, simply combine the noodles and sauce in the 8 x 8 baking dish you will use next.)
- Transfer the skillet mixture to a greased 8 x 8 baking dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350° F until pasta is tender and sauce is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle with Cotija or other cheese before serving.