Ecuadorian Pasta Cheese Soup with Potatoes – Sopa de Fideos y Queso con Papas is a simple Vegetarian soup that is perfect for cold winter temperatures.
Today’s post is kind of both a food and travel post. I have given you a little insight into my city. Almost everyone wants to come to NYC at least once in a while. This will give you a little idea about what it’s like.
I love living in New York City and I have always lived in the outer boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. It’s the best of both worlds. Instead of feeling like a big city, the outer boroughs is more like a community of villages with each village having it’s own cultural identity. Staten Island the the Bronx are also the same. Manhattan is only a short train ride away, so you are not too far either.
We have a lot of villages representing the different cultures of NYC – there’s Caribbean, Greek, Latin, Asian, Indian, African, Middle Eastern, Polish, Italian, Jewish, Russian. This is where you will get the most traditional, authentic foods of these regions of the world. If I want good traditional Russian food, I am going to go to Brighton Beach (see my post on Brighton Beach here) – not some fancy restaurant in Manhattan for double the price and half the flavor.
Tourists who only stay in Manhattan they just don’t know what they are missing by skipping out on visiting the diverse communities of the outer boroughs. Little Italy in Manhattan is a highly commercialized 2 block section where all the food tastes the same, however Little Italy in the Bronx is a thriving traditional community of mom and pop shops, where the owners are so friendly and will talk to you like you are their long lost cousin.
I will never forget once I was in Teitel Brothers just browsing and the owner calls me over and says “Hey, would you like to try a fresh ricotta salata I just got in from Sicily today. It’s stuffed with dried apricots and a special I only get once in a while.” Who would refuse that? Well he took out a piece and just started sharing with everyone in the store. Everybody was oohing and aahing over the amazing flavor and talking with each other about the cheese. It became like a family party with everyone fawning over the special dish. You will never have that experience in the faux Little Italy in lower Manhattan.
I grew up in Jackson Heights in Queens. Now Jackson Heights has two sections – an Indian section and a Latin section with people being mostly from South American countries like Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. In fact, one of my favorite restaurants Urubamba is here. Do check out the restaurant review I wrote here.
My mom still lives there so when I was on my way home after visiting her the last time, I decided to take a walk around instead of going straight to the train station to return home. I walked about a 20 block area from the Latin section to the Indian section and stopping at every supermarket on the way. Yes, I am a New Yorker and we are walkers!!!
Truth be told, I was on the lookout for Queso Paraguaya, a Paraguayan cheese to make Mbeju, a gluten free Paraguayan flatbread. I never found the cheese, but I refuse to give up. This is NYC. I know it is here somewhere, I just have to be patient and I will eventually find it. Of course, I could substitute another cheese – but where’s the fun in that?
Although Queso Paraguaya was no where to be found, there was such a huge variety of cheeses from Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Honduras, I still picked up a few that I haven’t tried before just to sample.
After coming home with some Ecuadorian food products, I decided to settle on something from that country to the last of my three South American recipes this week. Ecuador sits right on the equator so the country is simultaneously in three hemispheres – southern, northern and western. With that , they have a diverse climate and a diverse cuisine.
- Ecuadorian Cheese – I realize Queso Ecuatoriano is not something that everyone is going to have access to. It is basically a fresh white cheese, like a farmer’s cheese. The cheese has just a hint of salt and is actually perfect for breakfast also with just some toast and jam. The cheese should be diced and then crumbled by hand. I like mine a little chunky, but if you would like it smoother, you can even put the cheese in a food processor to really crumble it fine. If not farmer’s cheese, ricotta, goat cheese or homemade paneer (store bought paneer is too firm) are good substitutes.
The cheese is a semi hard cheese. Firm enough to be diced but soft enough to crumble by hand.
- Pasta – I used Ecuadorian pasta, but you can use any small pasta shape you find.
- Annatto Oil – aka achiote – This flavored oil is made by boiling oil with annatto seeds. You can check out the procedure here.
- Sofrito – The sofrito is optional but does add some extra flavor. You can check out my Puerto Rican style sofrito recipe here. There are slight differences from country to country, so this sofrito will work just as well in this Ecuadorian soup.
IN THE MAKING – HOW TO MAKE ECUADORIAN PASTA CHEESE SOUP WITH POTATOES
If you would like to add some spice to it, you can serve it with Aji Criolla.
Ecuadorian Pasta Cheese Soup with Potatoes
- 2 tablespoons annatto/achiote oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons sofrito optional
- 22 oz. potatoes peeled and chopped into large pieces
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 3 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups small shaped pasta
- 6 oz. queso Ecuatoriano farmers cheese
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- In a large pot, heat oil.
- Add onion and sofrito.
- Saute until onions are softened.
- Add potatoes, cumin and oregano.
- Toss well to coat the potatoes with the spices.
- Add milk and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
- Cook with pot partially covered for 10 minutes.
- Add salt and raise heat to medium high.
- Add pasta and cook for 3-4 minutes. (If using larger, shaped pasta, it will take longer to cook until al dente.)
- Add cheese and another cup of water. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add parsley and stir to combine.
- Adjust salt, as needed.
- Serve warm, garnished with a little of the achiote oil.
Ecuadorians love soup and generally eat it daily. Here are a few other Ecuadorian Soups you might like to try.