4   Tbsp   extra-virgin olive oil  
1   lb   fideos ,   or other very thin pasta, e.g. angel hair, 2-in lengths or shorter
1/2   tsp   saffron threads  
1   tsp   sweet paprika  
1   Tbsp   garlic ,   minced
1   lb   small clams ,   well washed
1   lb   mussels ,   well washed
1/2   cup   stock ,   optional
8-12   large   shrimp ,   shells on
4-8     sea scallops ,   cut in half (leaving 2 rounds)
1/2   cup   fresh parsley ,   chopped
    lemon wedges  

By Mark Bittman
To the list of beliefs about paella that are not ironclad, add the most obvious: it must be made with rice. Fideua (pronounced FID-a-wah), a dish associated with Valencia - where paella supposedly originated - is esentially paella using noodles in place of rice. The noodles of choice are fideos, thin strands often sold in coils and found in Spanish and Latin American markets.

The technique breaks Italian pasta rules in more ways than one. The noodles are smashed or broken into short lengths. (The easiest way to do this is to put them in a sturdy bag and whack them with a rolling pin or the back of a knife.)

They are then put in a pan with hot oil and stir-fried until brown. (When you do this, you will realize why the noodles are broken; longer pieces have a tendency to fly out of the pan.) During this process the pasta is coated with oil and gains flavor; it is a great technique that you do not see too often.

From this point on, the cooking is not unlike making risotto, except that you add very little liquid, because pasta requires far less liquid than rice, and because a good deal of liquid should be released by the clams and mussels that are usually included. Some judgment is needed in adding liquid. Although fideua should be moist, it is not soupy, and while the pasta should be very tender, it should not be mush. Add water (or stock) in dollops, sparingly.

The mix of seafood here is a suggestion. Many recipes include monkfish or other sturdy white-fleshed fish, or pieces of crab or lobster. Tomato is common (it provides moisture and flavor), as are red peppers, peas and capers. Whatever you might do with paella you can do with fideua.


1. Put oil in a skillet at least 12 inches across, and turn heat to medium-high. A minute later add noodles; sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring almost constantly, until they darken. Try to avoid letting more than a few pieces blacken.

2. Add saffron, paprika and garlic, and stir for a minute more. Add clams and mussels and about 1/2 cup water (or stock) and continue to cook, stirring. Depending on how much liquid the clams and mussels release, you may have to add a little more liquid. Continue to cook and stir until the pasta is nearly tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Add shrimp and scallops and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. Stir in parsley, taste and adjust seasoning, and serve with lemon wedges.

Yield: 4 servings.

From the kitchen of Scott and Glenn | Recipe database | Edit recipe