Sopa a la minuta isn’t something you’ll commonly find at a restaurant, even in Peru. It’s a classic example of limeño home cooking. It translates to “minute soup” because it’s something you can whip up in a figurative minute (at least compared to many of the more complex, labor-intensive, and time-consuming Peruvian soups). It consists of chopped beef or ground beef, aromatics, and spaghetti in a clear broth with the addition of milk and some beaten egg. It’s like a combination of egg drop soup, chowder, and beef and noodle soup. This sounded a lot like my mom’s soup, except for the eggs and milk and the fact that she’d add vegetables to hers. In effect, she created a fusion of her American traditions and her experience in Peru. Throw in single-mother thriftiness spurred on by the need to feed the three most difficult children in Miami, and you have a dish that is truly representative of my family’s earlier years in America. —Carlos C. Olaechea
Rinse the diced potatoes, drain, and then place in a large bowl with enough cool water to cover. Set aside until ready to use.
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the bay leaf, onion and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring often, until the onions soften.
Stir garlic into the softened onions and cook for a minute until fragrant. Now add the celery, carrots, and drained potatoes to the pot. Stir to combine and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened slightly and the potatoes are partially cooked.
Now add all the broth to the pot and crank up the heat to high. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and uncover the pot.
In a bowl, combine the ground beef with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Now pinch off pea-sized bits of ground beef and add to the soup.
Add the spaghetti and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the noodles are cooked to your liking. The longer you let the noodles simmer in the broth, the more liquid they soak up and the softer they become. I like them this way, but some people prefer the noodles al dente. It’s your choice.
I was born in Peru to a Limeño father and a Texan mother. We moved to Miami when I was five, and I grew up in the "Kendall-suyo" neighborhood—often called the 5th province of the Inca Empire because of its large Peruvian population. I've been writing about food since I was 11 years old, and in 2016 I received a master's degree in Gastronomy from Boston University. A travel columnist at Food52, I'm currently based in Hollywood, Florida—another vibrant Peruvian community—where I am a writer, culinary tour guide, and consultant.