Yesterday I made tortellini soup. As I started to gather the ingredients, some conversations from last Saturday night came to mind.
You see, I was invited to attend a gathering with these women:
who are, incidentally, some of my favorite people. We all talked about our favorite things from last year and more than once The Pioneer Woman was mentioned. Like, at least 20 times. It was all gushing and complimenting and praising of this Pioneer Woman. Some of these ladies even stood in an endless line to meet her at a cookbook signing and they were so star-struck that they could not think of anything intelligent to say once they were standing in front of her.
And I thought, I could go for that kind of admiration.
They mentioned that one of the things that they just love about her is that she makes food and uses roughly 75 pictures per recipe to show you how the food looks every step of the way - plus it always tastes amazing.
And I thought, I can take pictures... and my Tortellini Soup tastes amazing.
Plus, that whole admiration thing.
So, this is for you, Pioneer Woman fans. Except that I promise you will never have to stand in a 3-hour line to talk to me.
This recipe is from my pal Marci and if you ever let anyone else taste it you will win friends instantly. You don't even have to read that book by Dale Carnegie. It's seriously that good.
Just so you know before we start, I make a double batch of this stuff. So the recipe I'm going to give you at the end is for half the amount you see here. Of everything. Are you confused already? See, that's why Pioneer Woman has so many fans. She's not confusing. But I think you're smart enough to follow me here. No, I KNOW you're smart enough. (That's called a compliment. You're welcome.)
The recipe calls for a pound of Italian sausage but I am not a spicy kind of gal. Well, not when it comes to food. (That's called a joke. Get it? I'm spicy? But the real joke is that I'm actually not spicy at all. Anyway...) So I just use pork sausage.
Once it's cooked, it looks like this. Drain off the grease and then set the sausage aside.
This is my cooked sausage being set aside. It's in the sink in case any more grease drains off of it. Yes, I know you aren't supposed to put grease down the drain but it's a minuscule amount and I'm a total rule-breaking rebel.
Hey... maybe I am spicy!
These are carrots. They need to be diced. You can dice your carrots however you want to, but I'll tell you right now that I slice mine in half lengthwise. Twice. Meaning you will have 4 long pieces from one carrot. But I didn't take a picture of that because Little O was having an issue with his toy gun and I got distracted and forgot.
This is what carrots look like when they are diced. They are carrots and they are cut into little pieces, which is what we cooking-types call diced.
Next you'll need sliced mushrooms. I usually get them already sliced because I'm lazy like that, but these were a much better price, so I bought them whole. And look how dirty they are!
So I washed them.
What? Oh, you noticed that the colander is the same one where the cooked sausage was hanging out. Good eye! Yeah, I actually put that picture in the wrong spot. Because in real life, the sausage was still in the pan at this point. Told you I was confusing.
Hey, want some pointers on mushrooms?
Thanks, mushroom packaging. I actually never knew about keeping mushrooms in paper bags.
Here's how I slice mushrooms. They are one of my favorite parts of this soup.
At this point I realized that I needed an onion but had forgotten to buy one. So, guess what? I improvised! I just got out my ginormous can of dried onion and estimated how much I'd need.
This should do it.
Now that everything is all chopped up, we need to put butter in the pot. This is what butter looks like. Does anyone else ever wonder why they bother to put 'START MEASURE HERE' on the wrapper? I mean, everyone just eyeballs it, right? Does anyone really start measuring there on the line and then.... what happens if you need more on the other end? You just stick the smidgen you cut off to the other side or what?
Melting butter. In the same pot I cooked the sausage in, thus the brown stuff on the bottom. I'm all about less dishes to wash afterward. Once the butter is all melty, you add the chopped carrots and mushrooms and onions (unless you had to improvise and use dry onions... then wait and add those with the broth).
Action shot! Check out those veggies free-fallin' it into the pot of sizzling butter!
Stir those veggies around and let them get all butter-coated.
When you're done, they'll look like this and you'll want to eat some of the mushrooms. Go ahead & indulge! It's not like anyone will know. Now let them cook for about 5 minutes. While they're cooking, get the next 3 ingredients ready...
Chicken broth. One of my favorite things to buy from the Dollar Store is chicken broth because, obviously, it's only a dollar per 32 ounce package. Plus it's a lot easier than making my own broth. But you do what you want... as long as it's chicken broth, it will work.
You will also need some Italian style diced tomatoes and...
Basil. This is a typical container of basil which you can find anywhere, but I am going to just brag on myself for a minute and tell you that this particular container holds within it the basil I grew and dried all by myself last fall. I only told you that because it makes me feel awesome.
I love basil.
(Am I using enough pictures?)
This is what the diced tomatoes look like when they are opened.
At this point, Little O was becoming increasingly frustrated that I was not paying attention to him.
So I gave him a hug and a graham cracker.
And all was well.
Oh. In case you were wondering, I don't always wear my hair back like Betty Crocker. Only when I am cooking something that requires more than 10 minutes. Why? Because I shed hair like a dog, that's why. And no one wants my hair in their food.
And yes, he's still in his pajamas. He likes it and it's cute. Who am I to argue?
5 minutes. The veggies are done.
Go ahead and eat another mushroom.
Add the chicken broth. (Action shot!)
That's looking good.
Invite the sausage which has been patiently resting in the sink to join the soup pot party.
Dump in the tomatoes. (Action shot!)
Add the basil (and dried onions if you forgot to buy a fresh one).
Stir the soup... stir the soup... (does that make anyone else want to dance?)
But we're not done yet. This concoction needs to simmer for 20 minutes or so. While it does that, get your spinach ready.
I buy the bagged stuff because it's what I'm used to.
This next step is a whole lot easier if you buy a bunch of spinach instead of a bag. You need to chop off the stems and you can just WHACK them off with your knife if they're all bunched together. I just pull mine out of the bag, a little at a time, and break off the obvious stems. If you leave some stems on it's not going to kill anybody.
And now I present the star of our show, TORTELLINI! (applause) I prefer the tri-colored stuff but our local grocery stores stopped selling it in a combined effort to frustrate me. This is just as tasty, just not as colorful.
Hello, tortellini. Want to go swimming?
Here you go! Let those swim for about 6 minutes.
You can chop your spinach before adding it but I prefer to just tear it up as I drop it in.
Hey soup, where'd you go? (Is where'd a real word? Either way, I like it.)
There you are. Stir the spinach in and it's ready to serve in a couple of minutes.
My whole family loves this stuff, but especially the teenagers. Seriously.
In fact, they got home from school just as I was finishing it up and asked, "What smells so GOOD?!" When I told them what we were having for dinner, they got almost giddy with
excitement. In fact, I was able to take this completely unposed snapshot of them when they discovered the pot of soup...
See what I'm saying? They can't get enough of it.
And once you make it, neither can you.
1 package (or bunch) fresh spinach
49 ounces chicken broth
16 ounces cheese tortellini
1 pound Italian sausage, cooked
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 can diced Italian tomatoes
2 teaspoons dry basil
3 Tablespoons butter
Cook and set aside sausage. In a large pot saute onion, mushrooms and carrots in butter for about 5 minutes. Add broth, meat, tomatoes and basil to vegetables and cook 20 minutes or so. While soup is cooking prepare spinach by removing stems and coarsely chopping. After 20 minutes, add tortellini and cook for 6-8 minutes. Add spinach just before serving and cook 2-3 minutes. Use more or less spinach depending on what you like. This makes a large pot of soup.