Friday, February 18, 2011
The only food I remember liking at my college’s cafeteria (besides the always-available salad bar, breakfast cereal, and ice cream, which made up most of my diet) was tortellini soup, which only made its appearance during select weekend brunch services. I recall numerous Sunday mornings on which my roommate, K, and I hauled ourselves out of bed at 11:00 and trudged across campus just in the hope that we might find tortellini soup waiting for us. (I believe I usually ate it with a side of Lucky Charms. Oh, college.) I doubt the soup was very good, but it was better than a lot of the other cafeteria offerings and even at my pickiest, I’ve always loved tortellini.
I hadn’t thought about that soup in years, until I saw this recipe from The Well-Fed Newlyweds featured on the Tasty Kitchen blog, and then I had to make it for old time’s sake. It’s basically a fresher, more flavorful update of the herby tomato broth studded with cheese tortellini that I dimly recall. There’s nothing particularly earthshattering about it, but we enjoyed it well enough to have it again. I like that it has some substance from the pasta, but it’s lighter than eating a big bowl of noodles with sauce, and there’s a generous hit of green goodness from the spinach (I love how easy it is to keep cramming greens into a soup, because they shrink down so easily to unassuming wisps). Best of all, it comes together in no time, making for a simple yet comforting weeknight meal.
I added basil to the ingredients because it’s pretty much a no-brainer when you’ve already got tomatoes, cheese, and oregano involved. I was thinking fresh basil would be great (I’d stir it in at the end with the spinach), but I didn’t have any on hand, so I just used some dried basil along with the dried oregano. I used Trader Joe’s cheese tortellini, but I’d be tempted to try the pesto variety to amp up the flavor even more next time.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced (about ½ cup)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 15-ounce can whole or diced tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 9-ounce package fresh or frozen tortellini, any variety (I used cheese)
3 cups fresh spinach, chopped and loosely packed
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste
1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion. Cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the oregano, basil, broth, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. (If using whole tomatoes, you can break them up with your fingers as you add them to the pot, or break them up with a spoon once you’ve added them to the soup.)
3. Bring the soup to a boil and add the tortellini. Cook according to the package directions.
4. One minute before the tortellini are done, add the spinach. Stir to combine. When the tortellini are cooked, remove the pot from the heat immediately so they do not overcook. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
5. Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Great—tastes even better the next day.