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Fideua with fish and prawns

Sat, 12 June, 2021

Fideua, just like paella, is a classic summer dish cooked convivially over a barbecue in a special huge pan, shared between friends or family. Except it’s pasta instead of rice.

fideua with seafood

What is fideua?

Fideua is a paella with pasta instead of rice. It sounds like an attempted improvement on a perfection, doesn’t it? What can be better than paella, cooked in an enormous dish, with prawns and mussels or chicken and chorizo, with the gorgeous, near-burnt soccarat stuck to the bottom of the pan?

All that, plus pasta, is the assumption. So is it indeed an improvement? Can you swap rice and pasta willy—nilly? Or are some things made this way not the other for a reason, and you shouldn’t fix what’s not broken?

spanish fideua, paella with pasta

Of course, it’s not fixing; fideua is a Spanish dish in its own right. The story goes a cook for a fishing boat replaced rice in his paella with vermicelli noodles to spite the greedy skipper who never left enough paella for his mates. I do love those stories.

But fideua is significantly less popular than paella. Pasta might be more expensive in Spain than rice which grows there abundantly as the ignorant me was astonished to learn. But perhaps that’s not the only reason and rice simply works better? That’s what I set out to find out.

fideua with fish and prawns

Fideua or paella: which is better?

I have my trusted paella recipe and from what I could see out there, fideua is made in the same way: meat or fish, aromatics, flood the pan with stock and scatter the rice/pasta all over – completely counter-intuitively. And if it sticks, that means you’re masterful as soccarat, the crisp bottom layer of rice, is a delicious elusive effect to get right.

So let me start at the end: no soccarat in fideua. None, zip, diddly squat. That’s paella one, fideua nil. I like my soccarat.

The cooking method is as easy and takes as long so it makes it one all. But for fideua the seafood needs to be pre-cooked before it returns to the pan at the end of the cooking: that’s because there is no soccarat-developing, rice-popping last ten minutes’ spell. Once the pasta is cooked, that’s it.


Everything comes down to the soccarat it seems! But as you need to sear your prawns and fish, steam your mussels and clams beforehand – it’s hassle. More bother.

Finally – the taste. I enjoyed it, The Weather Man less so, and we didn’t polish the enormous, 4-people pan between us as we usually do with paella. So that’s the conclusive answer: it ain’t quite paella.

It is delicious as a variant. But it’s more like a semolina porridge instead of oats for breakfast: nice and a bit different every once in a while, but the oats are never beaten.

How to make fideua

It is an easy and pleasant cooking session, at least in my view. The only spot of a chore is making the stock out of prawn shells and heads. It isn’t strictly necessary – a fish or vegetable stock cube is serviceable – but it does make a difference to the taste and flavour. Your choice.

The toasting of the pasta is also optional, but likewise adds to the taste. I know, we don’t toast spaghetti for carbonara, but this is an entirely different pasta cooking method and so the toasting is fully legit. Don’t toast it if you can’t be bothered.

spanish pasta and seafood dish

Either way, the fish and seafood need to be seared and precooked, in the paella pan or the largest frying pan you own, after the toasted pasta has been removed.

The seafood goes off the pan and now it’s all straightforward: cooking the vegetables and aromatics with a little olive oil, adding spices, and if you took the trouble with the prawn stock, it will be ready to be strained into the pan by then.

Following that the pasta is sprinkled over the stock, totally not like your Nonna taught you. When it absorbs all the liquid, the seafood returns to top the dish or half-buried in the fideos. After a couple of minutes, it’s all ready – bar the soccarat. And yes, I’ll now shut up about the blasted soccarat. Buen Provecho!

fideua with fish and prawns

Servings: 4Time: 50 minutes


  • 8-10 king prawns, shell on
  • 150g (5 oz.) monkfish tail
  • 150g (5 oz.) salmon fillet, skinless
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 green or red pepper
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 250g (113 cup) fideo pasta
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 12 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt


1. Prepare the prawns: leave a couple in shells, a couple peeled but with heads on and the rest completely peeled; you can peel them all if you prefer.

2. Reserve the shells and place them in a pan with about 1 litre of water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or so, while you prepare the fish and vegetables.

3. Cut the fish into smallish chunks. Finely dice the onion, core and dice the pepper, dice the tomatoes and peel and finely chop the garlic.

4. Heat a dry paella pan or your largest frying pan over medium heat. Pour the dry pasta into the pan and toast for 3-5 minutes, shaking the pan, until coloured. Pour it into a bowl and set aside.

toasting fideo pasta

5. Add the olive oil to the pan and sear the king prawns briefly on both sides until they start to go pink. Remove from the pan and cook the fish in the same way. Remove from the pan and keep aside with the prawns.

cooking seafood

6. Strain the prawn shell stock – there should be about 750ml; top up with water if necessary and add the saffron to steep.

7. Add the onion to the pan and cook stirring until coloured. Add the peppers, spices and the salt and cook for 3-5 minutes until softened.

8. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook for a minute.

cooking aromatics

9. Return the pasta to the pan and stir around for a minute to coat it in the seasoning. Pour in the stock, it should just about cover the pasta. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid is absorbed. Taste a pasta strand: if it’s not tender enough, add more water and cook it off.

10. Return the fish to the pan and stir it in. Arrange the prawns on top and turn the heat down so the pasta doesn’t catch to the bottom. Turn the prawns over after a minute or two, and again if necessary so they turn completely pink.

cooking fideua

11. Take the pan off the heat, let it stand for a minute then set it in the middle of the table to serve.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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