Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup

Is this winter ever going to end?  Winter sports fanatics - you know, the outdoorsy type - must be happy, because we have had a steady snowfall this year.  Even if it is just a dusting, it has definitely been consistent.  Commuting has been great!  Do you sense the sarcasm?  I am hoping that there are people enjoying the weather, but it isn’t really “my thing.”  Especially the temperatures.  I cannot recall a winter that has been as consistently frigid as this one.  All the cold makes me want to do is curl up with a blanket, a book and some hot soup.

When I spotted the photo and recipe for Italian Sausage and Tortellini soup on Two Peas & Their Pod, it begged me to make it.  I had seen some other tortellini soups recently on Pinterest and other blogs, but this one jumped out at me.  I think it may have been the styling.  The soup contrasted nicely with the white crock-style bowl placed on a rustic wooden table.  Perfectly placed meatballs and tortellini peeked through a sea of broth loaded with good-for-you vegetables.  It looked delicious...so I put it on my menu list for the week and went shopping.

I picked up bulk Italian sausage from Sendik’s Towne Center in Brookfield, rolled into small balls and browned them in my trusty Le Creuset French oven.  I removed them with a slotted spoon and put them on paper towels to soak up some of the oil.

I added chopped onion to the rendered fat, sauteing for a few minutes, then added chopped red bell pepper, and finally, minced garlic.  After that cooked for a couple of minutes, I deglazed the pan with a little white wine, then added a bay leaf, red pepper flakes and some Italian seasoning (my go-to is the Little Italy blend from The Spice House), stirring it all around for a couple of minutes.  I then added a can of stewed tomatoes and broke them up with a potato masher (actually with a Pampered Chef Mix ‘n Masher, which is works even better).  Then I stirred in chicken stock and brought the whole thing to a boil.  I turned the heat down a bit, threw in some chopped kale and stirred it around until it was wilted.

Finally, I tossed in a couple of cups of cheese tortellini (I used Buitoni Mixed Cheese Tortellini) and piled my meatballs back into the pot.  Then I let it simmer until the tortellini were cooked through.  At the very end, I stirred in some chopped fresh basil along with some salt and pepper. 

It was a tasty and simple one-pot meal that was totally filling and the perfect warm-me-up.

I say this is a simple meal because the ingredients list isn’t very long and it doesn’t involve any complicated steps that a novice wouldn’t know how to accomplish.  However, after about 15 minutes into my ingredient gathering, rolling, chopping and mincing, Aaron shouted from the living room that he thought it seemed like a lot of work for soup.  I disagree, but maybe I just wasn’t as hungry as he was at the moment.

This soup was even better the next day (I think that is some kind of rule for soups).

Italian Sausage & Tortellini Soup (printable recipe)
Slightly adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

1½ lbs. bulk Italian sausage
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ c. white wine
1 bay leaf
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 (15 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
8 c. chicken stock
3 c. kale, chopped
2½  c. tortellini (fresh or frozen)
¼ c. fresh basil, chopped

Roll Italian sausage into half inch balls.  Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add meatballs and brown them on all sides until cooked through, about 5-10 minutes.  Remove meatballs to paper-towel lined plate and set aside.

To your now empty pot (which should have some fat from the meatballs),  add the onion, and saute for a couple of minutes, then add the red bell pepper.  Cook a couple minutes more, then add the garlic.  Stir and cook for 2 more minutes or until the onions are starting to brown and peppers are soft.  Add white wine and scrap up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add bay leaf, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning.
Add the stewed tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon or masher.  Stir in the chicken stock and bring the whole thing to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, then add the kale.  Stir it around and let it wilt a little bit.  Add the tortellini to the pot, along with the reserved meatballs.  Let simmer until the pasta is cooked through and the meatballs are re-heated.

Remove the bay leaf, stir in the basil, and season with salt and pepper.  Enjoy!

Note:  While I thought the soup was great as-is, there are a couple of modifications I would make on the next go-round.  As much as I thought I would love the meatballs in this soup, they didn’t disperse evenly enough throughout the soup, so I counted how many were in each bowl to make sure I was being “fair” when serving.  When I looked back at the recipe, I realized that it said to roll the sausage into ¼ teaspoon size balls.  If I had done that, I would have been rolling tiny meatballs all day!  Next time, I think I’ll just brown the sausage, breaking it up into little crumbles instead and save myself a couple of minutes.  On the topic of sausage, I also wasn’t crazy about the bulk Italian I used.  It had a touch too much fennel for my taste.  Next time, I will either swap it out for a different brand, or modify the entire soup recipe to incorporate elements from my grandmother’s meatball recipe that I love.  I also think that instead of the fresh red bell pepper, I will use roasted red pepper to give the soup a tad more flavor.  I might even get crazy and puree the roasted red pepper and add it in with the tomatoes for a richer, thicker broth.  Overall though, this recipe was hearty and tasty as-is.

I suggest you give this recipe a try, with or without my suggested modifications, and let me know what you think.

Now tell me…What is your favorite soup to help get you through winter?


  1. This looks amazing. I'll share it with my friends. Yummy!

  2. Thanks Timi! I hope you and your friends like it.