Ahh, sopita… How can I explain this simple, homestyle dish to those who did not grow up with it flowing through their veins? Here’s my first try, *ahem*: sopita is to Mexicans as chicken noodle soup is to Americans. Yeah? No? Okay, okay how’s this: sopita is to Mexican cuisine as macaroni and cheese is to Southern cuisine. You smell what I’m steppin’ in? A no-frills comfort-food best served by mom.
Ask any Mexican and their mom probably has some version of this soup up her sleeve. Some moms make it extra soupy, some moms add vegetables and some moms make it extra cheesy (the best kind of moms). The kind my mom always made was dense, savory and cheesy as all hell, bless her soul.
As a responsible-ish adult, I now find it hard to justify making and eating this dish because it’s not exactly rich in nutrients… But there are times (illness, stress, poverty) when it feels like this is the only meal that will cure my aching soul! And so, I have devised a way to recreate the dish into a hearty, semi-healthy, responsible dinner for a well-intentioned, twenty-something, adult-like being.
Obviously I always add kale because kale makes ANYTHING healthier. No really, it does. I also majorly skimp on the amount of cheese used because lactose intolerance. You’re going to laugh when you see the recipe and what I refer to as “majorly skimp”. And I usually like to add a healthy protein, like shrimp. Shrimp is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iodine and protein. And, while many people are concerned about its high cholesterol content, the lack of a significant amount of saturated fat means the cholesterol content in shrimp actually improves the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides. Booyah.
So, voila: healthy-ish sopita. Have at it, my comfort-food-seeking amigos.
Sopita with Shrimp and Kale
3 quartz water (12 cups)
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound raw shrimp
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound shell pasta
1 8-oz can El Pato tomato sauce
1 15-oz can of tomato sauce
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon
2 cups kale
2 cups shredded cheese (I like to use Monterey Jack but Cheddar or a mix will do)
salt, to taste
cilantro, to garnish
Add water and salt to a large pot and bring to a boil
Add shrimp to pot and cook until the shrimp turns pink and floats to the top (for frozen shrimp this could be about five minutes, for raw shrimp it could be 2-3 minutes)
Quickly remove shrimp from pot with a slotted spoon and add to a bowl full of cold water and ice to prevent further cooking. Be sure to reserve the cooking liquid (shrimp broth!)
Add vegetable oil to a clean pot and bring to medium heat
Add shell pasta to pot with oil and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until pasta becomes fragrant and begins to brown
Add El Pato sauce, plain tomato sauce, garlic powder and chicken bouillon and stir
Add reserved shrimp broth and stir
Bring to a boil
Once it reaches a full boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until pasta is cooked through
Add cheese, kale, and shrimp; stir and cover for about five minutes or until cheese has melted and kale has wilted
Add salt to taste
Garnish with cilantro sprigs to brighten the flavor; add Cholula or your favorite hot sauce for more heat