This Mexican shells pasta soup, sopa de conchas, uses simple ingredients to make a hearty, filling, budget friendly meal that the will become a family favorite — yes, even the picky eaters. Serve it for lunch, dinner or as an entrée, it’s delicious every way.
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Sopa De Conchas
In English sopa de conchas means shell soup, as in shell pasta soup.
This hearty flavorful tomato sauce based comforting Mexican soup recipe is filled with memories for all Mexicans. This, just like sopa de fideo, is a soup we all grow up eating. You can say it’s ultimate comfort food.
As any Mexican and they’ll recount memories of their mama or abuelas serving a big bowl of this pasta shell soup.
Other Mexican Sopita with Pasta
But this Mexican shell pasta soup isn’t the only type of sopita or Mexican pasta soups that we eat.
This soups is also categories as a “sopa aguada” which means a brothy soup. There are many varieties of shapes of pasta range and with other type of pasta shapes.
There is sopa de fideo made with thin and short vermicelli noodles, there’s estrellita which is star pasta, coditos which is elbow macaroni, letra which is alphabet pasta, moño which is bow ties …just to name a few.
We Mexicans eat sopita all year round, doesn’t matter if it’s cold outside or if it’s hot…sopas and caldos are served.
Mexican Shell Soup Ingredients
These simple ingredients are pantry basics so you should always have them available in your kitchen. A great thing about this easy recipe is that they are all budget friendly items and you can make a big pot of this to feed quite a few people.
Check the bottom of this post for ingredient links as well as more Mexican noodle soup recipes.
You can find it at any Mexican food store, on Amazon or even in regular grocery stores. Choose dry shell pasta that is small so it works best with the other ingredients called for. If you can’t find this then use small elbow macaroni, like the one pictured here.
The pasta is semolina and durum wheat and, at least the one I use and linked to above, uses no animal products, so it’s vegan!
To make it gluten free then simply use your favorite gluten-free pasta.
In Mexican cooking you always want to use fresh roma tomatoes. We don’t use canned tomatoes, tomato sauce — and in fact tomato paste is incredibly difficult to find. There’s nothing wrong with these ingredients, they just have a very different taste that is not typical of authentic Mexican cuisine.
White Onion and Garlic Cloves
These two ingredients are absolutely vital to the recipe. They lend such deliciousness so don’t skip them. Do use fresh for both instead of powder or ground, again it’s just a different taste not to mention that this recipe has not been tested like that.
Water and Broth
You’ll need a little bit of water to get the blender going. The broth you’ll need to cook the shell soup.
Traditionally chicken broth is what’s used, but we are going to use vegetable broth instead to make this sopa a vegan one. (Be careful with this when you go out to eat, more often than not it’s chicken broth that they’ll use.)
If you don’t have vegetable broth you can mix the cups of water with vegetable bouillon powder or a vegan base like Better Than Bouillon, just follow the package instructions.
Salt and Cilantro
The seasonings for this soup are so basic. Most of the flavor will come from the tomato sauce and a good veggie broth But salt and cilantro also play their part in the flavor profile.
Can you Add Vegetables
Yes you can, it’s not necessary but some people do like to add veggies for a heartier soup.
Let me point out that if you add vegetables to the recipe below, then you’ll need to add more vegetable broth. Also if you’re going to add veggies then make sure they are chopped into very small pieces.
Some vegetables you could use are small pieces of green beans, carrots, peas, chayote or zucchini. Do keep in mind that chopping the vegetables will add additional prepping and cooking time to the recipe.
Can You Add Other Spices or Ingredients
You could if you’d like. But the recipe I’m providing is the more traditional method.
I did a quick search and apparently some people use epazote instead of cilantro. For the spices some suggested additional ingredient variations of oregano, cumin for a smoky touch.
If you wanted to add a touch of heat you could add a serrano or jalapeño pepper to the pot. Just rinse and slice in half to add the spicy touch.
Additionally I saw a recipe that called for adding ground beef, but I don’t know about this because my mom never used it…so I don’t know if it’s authentic or not.
Is The Oil Necessary
This step is quite a similar recipe to when making Mexican rice. The pasta needs to be toasted until slightly golden brown.
The oil is used to toast or brown pasta shells until golden. This gives the shells a slight nuttiness to them and makes for a more flavorful soup.
If you skip the oil and toasting step then the texture of the shells will be different. It’ll still taste good…just not as good, in my opinion.
How to Make Sopa de Conchitas
One of the most beautiful things about this soup is that it’s so easy to prepare. Unlike other recipes that use salsa, in this one you’ll never have to boil or roast the tomatoes before blending to make the salsa!
Make The Tomato Sauce
Place the roma tomatoes, onion, garlic cloves, salt and water. Blend until completely smooth then set aside for a few minutes.
Toast the Shells
In a large stockpot and over medium heat, warm up the olive oil or vegetable oil. Then once hot carefully pour in the dry pasta shells. Stir often and allow to toast.
You need to keep a close eye on it so the pasta doesn’t burn.
Add The Tomato Sauce
Next pour in the blended tomato sauce over the shells. Stir until well combined and allow to simmer for over medium-high heat for about 6 minutes or just until the sauce thickens up.
Add Broth and Simmer
Now you’ll carefully pour in the broth and drop in the cilantro sprigs. Give the pot a good stir, partly cover and allow to simmer over low heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until you have tender pasta shells.
Check on the sopa now and again so it doesn’t burn or overcook.
Test for doneness and also seasoning, adjust seasoning if desired.
How to Serve Sopa de Conchas
This soup is incredibly flavorful and delicious just on it’s own right out of the pot.
If serving as a main dish you could serve with warm tortillas, I like corn best. If serving as an entrée then this would be great with just about any main dish. The day I made this sopa recipe I served some Mexican sopes as the main dish and the sopita as the entrée, it was delicious!
You could also serve it as a side dish to any entrée.
How to Store
This soup, like my fideo recipe and other pasta soups, is really best enjoyed the day you make it. The reason being that the pasta keeps absorbing the tomato sauce or broth and it gets thicker and thicker.
However, you can store any leftovers in the refrigerator and try to eat within a few days for the best flavor and texture.
I wouldn’t recommend freezing because again the pasta will absorb too much liquid and the texture will change. Freezing pasta holds up better when it’s dry.
How to Reheat
To reheat your leftovers place is back on the stove top for about 8 minutes or until warmed through. In the microwave it takes but a couple of minutes.
Is Sopa de Conchas Vegan
Yes, this sopa de conchas recipe is 100% vegan!
The pasta shells are made without any egg or animal products and the rest of the ingredients are naturally vegan.
Mexican Shell Soup Recipe
You simple have to make this popular recipe that is a favorite in most Mexican homes. The ingredients are budget friend, it has great flavor, can be made with different types of pasta, and I promise everyone is going to love it.
Ok amigos, thanks for stopping by and I truly hope you give this recipe a try. Below you’ll find the printable recipe or you can click on the heart to save it and come back to it anytime you want.
Below the recipe you’ll find some affiliate links to Amazon so you can get things you’ll need for this recipe. Remember that I make a small commission from sales and that is invested right back into making new recipes for you. Gracias!!
Mexican Shells Soup | Easy Sopa de Conchas
Tomato Sauce Ingredients
- 3 whole Roma tomatoes cut into quarters
- 1/2 cup chopped white onion it's about half a medium onion
- 2 whole cloves garlic
- 3/4 cup of water
- 3 Tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable oil
- one 8 oz dry shell pasta small conchitas
- 5 cups vegetable broth store bought or homemade
- 2 sprigs cilantro optional
- 1 teaspoon salt to taste keep in mind the saltiness of the broth you use
- 1 teaspoon vegan sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
- 2 Tablespoons avocado
- 1 Tablespoon crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese
- 1 Pickled jalapeños
Tomato Sauce Instructions
- Place the tomatoes, onio, garlic and water into a blender. Blend until smooth then set aside.
- In a large stockpot and over medium heat, warm up the oilve oil or vegetable oil. Then once hot carefully pour in the dry pasta shells. Stir often and allow to toast.You need to keep a close eye on it so the pasta doesn’t burn.
- Next pour in the blended tomato sauce over the shells. Stir until well combined and allow to simmer for over medium-high heat for about 6 minutes or just until the sauce thickens up.
- Now you’ll carefully pour in the broth and drop in the cilantro sprigs. Give the pot a good stir, partly cover and allow to simmer over low heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until the shell pasta is tender. Check on the sopa now and again so it doesn’t burn or overcook.
- Taste and adjust salt if desired. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Top with you favorite toppings and enjoy!
More Mexican Sopa Recipes to Try
Don’t miss any of these yummy sopa recipes!
- Easy Sopa de Fideo
- Vegan Lentil Soup | Sopa de Lentejas
- Instant Pot Menudo Made Vegan
- How to Make Vegan Pozole Rojo
- Sopa de Habas or Fava Bean Soup
- Vegan Menudo
- Corn and Poblano Pepper Soup with a Touch of Curry Powder
Nancy Lopez is a food blogger and author of the cookbook Mexican Tamales Made Meatless. Born in Mexico, raised in the US, and currently living in Southern Mexico, she has followed a meatless diet for almost 10 years. It is her passion and mission to share all she has learned about vegan Mexican cooking and vegetarian Mexican recipes. Mexican Made Meatless is a blog dedicated to preserving the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine just without the meat. It’s a place to celebrate Mexican culture and all it’s delightfully delicious traditional foods. Read more…