Here in the Midwest the seasons are changing... we're definitely exiting winter and now entering the season that comes just before spring. We affectionately call it Mud. It's mud season here. The temperatures are rising just a bit, the snow is melting, but the ground hasn't quite thawed yet so that melting snow has nowhere to go except to mingle with the warming soil and create a quagmire of quicksand. Much like a bog. Cranberries would grow nicely out there right about now.
And no one around here is happy this time of year. And by no one, I mean me. Honestly, I cannot abide one more person waxing giddy because the sun's out and it's not 12 degrees. Yes, the sun's out, but do you really need to shed more sunlight on the barren, sepia landscape that is March? No, let it be cloudy. Please. Somehow the grey clouds make more sense right now. Bright sunshine is for green trees and lush gardens. I'm not ready for sunshine.
I am alone in this thinking.
So my coping mechanisms thus far mostly have included hiding in the kitchen and making bread and pies and soup and whatever else will provide distraction. Once I'm kneading bread dough, simmering a soup, or rolling a pie crust, does outside really matter? Not so much.
All whining aside, it really is true that I've found refuge in my kitchen while I wait for spring, and this soup has been one of the highlights. It covers all the necessary food groups when comfort is required...carbs, cheese and sausage. We're going to throw in some kale and white beans too because it's called "Tuscan", and besides, they're awesome.
We should talk about tortellini for a minute. Historically, I will say that I like them, but I don't love them. It's always seemed that the ratio of pasta to filling just isn't quite right, which can make them a little too chewy or even dry sometimes. But put them in a soup, which is perhaps their intended destiny since inception, and they are transformed into luscious bites of tender pasta loveliness. They are the backbone of this soup and make it hearty fare, indeed.
Then there's also Italian sausage, which you can go several ways with. You can grab links and just slice them up (a la the original recipe), or you can remove the casings and brown it bulk-style to disperse the sausage evenly throughout the soup, or you can do what I did, which I heartily suggest, and remove the casings and roll the sausage up into tiny little meatballs which are the perfect little flavor bite on your spoon. One time I had leftover (spaghetti) meatballs in the fridge that I cut into chunks and added to the pot, and let me just tell you... yes. You want as many kinds of meatballs as possible in here.
The original recipe called for spinach, but I opted for kale as it holds up better in soups and packs a bit more bang for your buck, flavor and nutrition-wise. Plus, I dearly love it ever so much.
I do hope you are high and dry or perhaps rainy and happy, wherever you are. We will continue to wear our mudders outside for awhile yet, but tortellini soup will be our consolation. The Husband isn't much of a soup guy, but he's specifically requested that it join our regular rotation of weekday meals and I will happily oblige. Here's the recipe...
Tuscan Tortellini Soup with Italian Sausage, White Beans and Kale
Recipe adapted from delish
As I mentioned in the blog post, you can simply slice your Italian sausages and brown them as directed, or you can remove the casings and brown the sausage in bulk, or remove the casings and form little meatballs with the sausage and then brown. Your call. As for the tortellini, I don’t cook it all with the the soup, unless I’m feeding enough people to use the whole recipe. If there are only 2 or 3 of us, I boil the tortellini separately, (about 3-4 oz per person). When ready to serve, I place the tortellini in each bowl and then pour the soup over them, and this way the tortellini doesn’t get overcooked and mushy.
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 lb. sausage links (see headnote)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
4 c. chicken broth or stock
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
12 to 16 oz. refrigerated cheese tortellini (see headnote)
1 15-oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
5 oz. kale, chopped
Grated Parmesan, for garnish
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender and lightly golden, about 6 minutes. Add sausage and cook until golden and then stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute a few moments before adding the crushed tomatoes, white beans, chicken broth, salt and pepper.
Bring to a rolling simmer and add tortellini (see below). Simmer 20 minutes. Stir in the kale, and cook for a few minutes, or until just wilted.
Alternately, if you’re just feeding 2 or 3 people, boil about 3-4 oz of tortellini per person, drain and then place in each soup bowl. Pour the soup over the tortellini, drizzle with a little more olive oil and garnish with Parmesan.