By Christopher Kimball
Milk Street by Christopher Kimball
A great way to add flavor to a pasta dish is to toast the noodles in oil, which brings out the nutty notes that add complexity to the end result. And a great example of this lesson is la sopa seca, which translates to dry soup from Spanish.
This Mexican dish typically features thin, split noodles that are toasted and then cooked with broth and tomatoes. The noodles absorb the liquid, resulting in a dry pasta, but rich in soup flavors. And the toasted pasta creates a rich base of nutty flavor and unique texture for the finished dish.
For our book version, Milk Street Tuesday Nights, which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less, we opted to use butternut squash instead of tomatoes. Pumpkin adds a nice sweetness and pairs well with seasonings, transforming the dish into a hearty fall or winter meal.
The avocado and fresh cheese add a creaminess that goes well with the delicious pasta, and the cilantro and lime juice balance the nutty flavor of the pasta. Although this recipe uses chicken broth, switching to vegetables will make it vegetarian and just as good.
Dry Soup with Butternut Squash
From start to finish: 25 minutes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
12 ounces angel hair pasta, broken into 1-inch pieces
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into Ω-inch pieces (4 cups)
kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped young stems, leaves chopped and kept separate
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 and a half teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon and a half of sweet paprika
a quarter teaspoon of ground cinnamon
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons lime juice (2 to 3 limes)
4 ounces fresh cheese, crumbled, to serve
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced, to serve
5 spring onions, thinly sliced, to serve
In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the pasta and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside. Clean the pot.
In a medium bowl, toss the squash with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Return the dutch oven to medium-high heat and add the squash. Cook, stirring occasionally, until squash begins to brown and is almost tender, about 4 minutes. Add onion, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the coriander stems, garlic, cumin, paprika and cinnamon. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the toasted pasta and broth, then bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until pasta is al dente and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 7 minutes.
Add the lime juice and half of the coriander leaves. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve topped with the remaining cilantro leaves, avocado, queso fresco, and scallions.