Winter is the time for your favorite soup

Julie Falsetti

Most people know Feb. 2 as Groundhog Day. That date was chosen as it marks the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

In other words, at this point winter is half over, and it’s time for some levity. Nonetheless, no matter what Punxsutawney Phil says, it’s still going to be cold for a while.

The only redeeming quality of winter for me is that it is an excuse to enjoy all my favorite soups. Brothy, chunky or puréed, I like them all. Give me a bowl of minestrone and some homemade bread, and dinner is ready.

Sometimes, though, I want something to warm me up rather than fill me up.

Sopa de fideo, or Mexican noodle soup, fits the bill. It is inexpensive, and because it uses ingredients I usually have in the pantry, it doesn’t require any last-minute runs to the supermarket. Since it is my husband’s favorite soup, I can’t make it too often.

The process of making sopa de fideo proceeds much like any other soup except for one important step — frying the noodles before adding them to the soup. This might seem strange, but it is what gives the soup its unique flavor, as the other ingredients are commonplace.

Frying the noodles is not difficult, but it is not a task you can do and check your Facebook page at the same time.

It is important to use a cast iron frying pan or other heavy-bottomed pan. Moving the noodles constantly with a spatula will ensure that they brown and not burn.

There are special “fideo” noodles, but any type of broken-up thin pasta like angel hair will work just as well.

If you want to skip the step of breaking up the noodles, Barilla puts out already cut-up spaghetti with all the pieces uniform in size.

Sopa de Fideo

4 ounces fideo noodles, broken into approximately 2-inch pieces

3 to 5 tablespoons oil

1 jalapeño chile, finely chopped (you can use more jalapeños if you like it spicy)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 cup crushed tomatoes

8 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water

1 tablespoon salt or to taste

1/4 cup fresh cilantro including stems, chopped

In a heavy frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over a medium-high flame. When the oil is hot, add the noodles. While moving the noodles constantly, fry until they are brown. Watch carefully, as they can burn easily.

Remove the noodles with a spatula, and let drain on a paper towel.

In the same pan, saute the chile, onion and garlic in the oil, until the onion is soft. If needed, add a little more oil. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Transfer the tomato/onion mixture to a large soup pot and add the broth and salt. Bring to a boil.

Lower the heat, and simmer covered for 30 minutes.

Add the noodles and coriander and cook for 5 minutes or until the noodles are done.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.