pasta tacos
Dylan James Ho and Jeni Afuso
Cookbook Club

Pasta Is the Most Underrated Taco Filling

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Los Angeles is the City of Angels and of tacos, and Wes Avila, the driving force behind Guerrilla Tacos, probably makes the most famous tacos of them all. Though he's cooked at prestigious restaurants in the country, Avila made his mark slinging uni, duck breast, and sweet potato tacos out of a truck. Since 2012, people have been tracking down the truck all over the city to line up for his genre-bending tacos. His Guerilla Taco recipes, and more, are in Avila's new cookbook with the same name. 

While sweet potato tacos might be his most popular dish, the recipe Avila is most fond of in the book is what he calls the Chubbs taco. It's an homage to the tacos his father would whip up after his mother passed away. "He would get a giant spoon of lard and wait for it to get bubbly, scramble an egg in a bowl with some minced onions and fry it like a chile relleno," recalls Avila. "The flavor and the comfort levels that taco has is so good."

In Guerrilla Tacos, Avila spends pages upgrading the nostalgic recipes from his childhood. Take for example the mushroom and fideo taco, essentially a carb-on-carb feast of pasta and tortillas. "The recipe came from eating tortillas with everything as a kid," says Avila. "I know that people do a [fideo] taco in Mexico, and I've seen it there as an adult, but as a kid, my mom would make things like Mexican pasta and we'd get flour tortillas and stuff the pasta in. It was so good."

Avila the adult likes to put morel mushrooms into the mixture of angel hair pasta, Parmesan, and thick salsa. "When morels are in season, they are the fucking best," says Avila. The taco is essentially a cheaper, portable version of the fancy morel pasta dishes high-end Italian places dole out for $36 a bowl. If morels are out of season, Avila recommends swapping them out for oyster mushrooms.

Above all, Avila just wants to you to make the damn taco (or really, any taco out of the book) and all of the salsas. "I wrote this book to show that tacos are very approachable," Avila notes. "People are scared of making salsas... but it's not rocket science, it's just knowing ratios."

Get the recipe for the mushroom and fideo taco below.

Mushroom and Fideo Tacos

INGREDIENTS:
1⁄4 cup lard
4 cups broken angel hair pasta (roughly 2-inch pieces)
Kosher salt
1 pound wild mushrooms, such as morels or chanterelles
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, pierced with a knife
4 thyme sprigs
11⁄2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, or as desired
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
12 corn tortillas, warmed
Salsa casera for garnishing
Chopped chives for garnishing
4 Roma tomatoes
2 serrano chilies, stemmed
4 garlic cloves, peeled
Kosher salt
DIRECTIONS:
In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, melt the lard. Add the pasta and brown for about 4 minutes, turning occasionally. This is a homestyle way of cooking pasta that I haven’t really seen anyone else do outside of Mexican families. Not all of the noodles will be browned as much as the others but that’s okay.

While you’re browning the pasta, in a large pot over high heat, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Add about 3 tablespoons salt, then add the browned pasta and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until al dente.

Meanwhile, fill the sink with 6 inches of cold water. Add the mushrooms and push them around, rubbing off the dirt and impurities with your fingers. The dirt should sink to the bottom, the mushrooms should bob to the top. Pick up the mushrooms with your hands, drain and clean the sink, and then rinse the mushrooms one more time under running water. Repeat this process a second time. Set the mushrooms on a wire rack. Depending on the size of the mushroom, cut in half or quarters. You want the pieces to be 2 to 3 inches in size because they will shrink as you cook.

In the same pan you used to cooked your noodles, over medium heat, combine the butter and garlic and cook until the garlic is aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes, add the thyme, cook for 30 seconds more, and then turn off the heat.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1⁄4 cup of pasta water to help cook it the rest of the way and incorporate the cheese.

Remove the thyme from the mushrooms and add the pasta and reserved pasta water. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the cheese. Mix thoroughly and add the black pepper. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, until it’s a thick mixture of pasta with mushrooms. If it’s too liquidy, just cook longer. Season with salt, and if you want to add more cheese, add more cheese.

Divide the pasta mixture among the tortillas and garnish with a little bit of the salsa casera. Serve immediately.

Note: If you can’t find wild mushrooms, button mushrooms will work.

To make the salsa casera: Bring a 4-quart pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the tomatoes and cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a blender. Add the serranos and garlic, blend until smooth, and season with salt. (If you won’t be eating immediately, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 hours.)

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Khushbu shah is a senior food features editor and extremely pro carb-on-carb meals. Follower her on twitter @khushandoj