Cooler weather is right around the corner, so it's time to start thinking about hearty soups.
When this recipe ended up in my email from allrecipes.com, I knew it would be a keeper. I've made it twice so far and even with a few substitutions when I didn't have all the proper ingredients on hand, it still didn't disappoint.
One pound of sausage was about four links and I chose the mild variety although if you like a bit of heat, hot sausage could be substituted. I've seen this recipe using green pepper, but I didn't add it here. Diced green pepper along with the rest of the vegetables would likely add an additional flavor and is something to think about the next time I make this soup.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Kathleen Evanoff
With cool weather coming soon, Italian sausage and tortellini soup is a warm, hearty meal. Serve with crusty Tuscan-style bread and a little grated parmesan cheese on top.
I took a few liberties with the vegetables. The directions said to cook the soup for 30 minutes before adding the zucchini, but I prefer to saute all my vegetables for a few minutes before adding the broth and that's what I did here as well. I like my vegetables diced rather small and the sausage didn't give off a lot of fat after I slipped it out of the casings and browned it first. To compensate for sauteing all the vegetables, I added a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
Because my husband isn't a fan of zucchini, I peeled and seeded it the first time I made the soup and I don't think he even realized he was eating zucchini. The second time, however, I diced it without peeling.
I also added the wine the first time I made the recipe, but left it out the second time and didn't miss it. The recipe also calls for fresh basil leaves, but I used dried. Remember when substituting dried herbs for fresh to cut the amount by one-third. When dried, the oils in the herbs are more concentrated so less is needed.
Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup
1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 large box beef broth (about five cups)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine
3 or 4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 Tbl. fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
8 oz. can tomato sauce
3 Tbls. fresh parsley
8 oz. fresh tortellini pasta
grated parmesan cheese for garnish
In a 5-quart Dutch oven, brown sausage. Remove sausage and drain, reserving one tablespoon of the drippings.
Saute onions and garlic in the drippings. Stir in beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, tomato sauce and sausage.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Skim fat from the soup. Stir in zucchini and parsley. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Add tortellini during the last 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese on top of each serving.
I used fresh tomatoes, just as the recipe called for, and peeled and deseeded each one before chopping. This is an easy process by simply putting the tomatoes in boiling water until the peels begin to slip off, about three minutes. Then plunge them in ice water for about the same amount of time. Seeding a tomato also is an easy job. Quarter the tomatoes first and simply use your fingers to scoop out the seeds. There are about four seed cells in each quarter section. Once the seeds are out, what's left is the meaty tomato pulp, which can then be chopped into a fine dice. I imagine using a can of diced tomatoes would accomplish the same job, but since fresh, garden tomatoes are abundant right now, why would anyone want to open a can?
I did open a can of crushed tomatoes for the recipe when I discovered I didn't have plain tomato sauce in my pantry. Crushed tomatoes added a bit of bulk to the soup and I think I prefer it that way.
It is imperative to wait until the last 10 minutes of simmering before adding the tortellini. The recipe called for fresh tortellini but I used frozen and it was fine. Adding tortellini too soon will result in mushy pasta and everyone hates that. Although I added the zucchini ahead of time, I held off on the parsley, adding it with the tortellini. Serve with crusty Tuscan-style or other artisan bread and don't forget to grate fresh parmesan cheese on top before serving.
The soup reheats well, and I've made this recipe to refrigerate for a few days of lunches during the work week. It is still just as good as the first day it's made.