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Porotos con rienda is a Chilean dish, a thick soup or stew of beans, pumpkin or winter squash and spaghetti. Often, the soup is made with smoked sausage. It is a hearty dish, well suited to the cold weather that occurs seasonally in much of Chile. In addition to the main ingredients, the soup usually includes other vegetables such as onion and carrot.
The ingredients are a blend of the major influences in the cooking of Chile: beans and pumpkins have been local foods since pre-Columbian times, while the European settlers in the area brought pasta, sausage and a tradition of making soup. Porotos con rienda probably originated in the mid-1800s, when a major wave of immigrants arrived from several European countries and began adapting their traditional cooking styles to locally available ingredients. The name literally means “beans with reins,” an apparent reference to the long, thin spaghetti.
White beans, typically cannellini or great northern, are usually used in the dish. Some recipes use pinto beans. Canned beans can be used to shorten the preparation time, but in that case care must be taken to make the broth as flavorful as that developed by boiling the beans with the flavoring ingredients.
Although porotos con rienda is often said to be made of beans, pumpkin and spaghetti, butternut or other winter squash is often used instead of pumpkin. Buying already cut and peeled pieces of pumpkin or squash is easier than cutting and peeling a whole squash. Spaghetti is important to the character of the soup, but the quantity used is much smaller than that used in a pasta dish. Most recipes call for only 1/4 lb. (113 g) or less of spaghetti.
The seasonings in porotos con rienda are basic. Onion, garlic, olive oil, and oregano are standard, while common additions include paprika, cumin and cilantro. Carrots, diced tomatoes and bell peppers are frequently used. Kielbasa, or other smoked sausage, is a traditional ingredient and some recipes include bacon, either with, or in place of, the sausage. Vegetarian versions are fairly common, probably because the early immigrants did not always have smoked meats available.
Most recipes call for mashing some or all of the pumpkin or squash after it is fully cooked, which makes the broth creamy and thick. For extra flavor the pumpkin can be roasted instead of simply boiled with the beans. Porotos con rienda goes well with rice or any crusty peasant type of bread.
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