Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Best Tortellini Soup

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.


Anonymous said...

Great Job Pioneer Woman....I mean Gerberta!!!! That's exactly the way I like my recipes...pictures and commentary. I can't wait to try your Tortellini Soup! I now read your blog FAITHFULLY! I was sure I would be the 100th person. Do I win something??
P.S. Loved the photo of us all, what fond memories!!!!!

rorymckm said...

this looks wonderful! thanks for all the pics, too, that's always helpful. the recipe (and photos) have been added to my recipe database. definitely gonna try this one out soon! :)

Rachel said...

Oh NUM! Yes, very nice. Very nice photos and very nice commentary and uh huh! Yup! Have the same ginormous can of onions....cuz I forget real onions all of the time.....shed like a dog. Uh huh. So when I cook up goes the hair.......

I'm gonna try this one! Oh yes I am indeed and I'll let you know wha The Natives think!

Rebecca said...

I have a few things to say:

a)I love this soup, too, as does everyone who has ever tasted it, and I'll love Marci forever for sharing the recipe.

b)You are amazing because you can cook and snap photos at the same time. I liked all the photos.

c)I rarely look at PW's blog, and I've never tried one of her recipes. But I would wait in line 3 hours for you to sign a book for me.

d)I got a little bit giddy while reading this because I thought I caught a misspelling. Doesn't "smidgeon" have an O in it?

e)When I read about the veggies free fallin', I sang that song in my head.

f)I think in that picture with little O you were really saying, "Smile for this picture or Mommy's gonna shoot you" because I don't see a graham cracker anywhere.

g)I have never removed a stem from a single leaf of spinach that I put into this soup, but I do chop my spinach.

h)When can we hang out again? Is it too soon?

Michelle said...

A real woman indeed! Was so nice to FINALLY MEET YOU GERB! I think the Pioneer Woman better look out...she has no idea what's about to take hold of her readers! Keep 'em comin. I hope I'm a fur ril registered real live reader person on your blog now.

Gina said...

What??? They have chicken broth for a dollar? I MUST become a dollar store shopper. And, Rebecca's comment is the funniest. She wins! And, I never, ever take the stems off of my spinach for anything. I am way too lazy for that jumble. And, you are the PW fo sho! Loved it. Laughed it.

Kimm said...

You've got to have 100 readers by now! All this time I have been "following" you I wasn't really! HA I added you to my reader today!! I also would stand in line to have you sign a book, honestly though Gerb, three hours is pushing it! You're amazing! The soup looks great! The picture of those amazingly beautiful woman friends of yours is well AMAZING! Thanks again for sharing....YOU ROCK!

Richard & Natalie said...

I.LOVE.YOU! Not in a "weird way," but in a "that is the most fun I have had today" kind of way.
If that soup is half as fun to make as you made it seem in this blog post, it will be a instant Parke favorite- because I will make it all the time.
Thanks for sharing- pasta, spinach, and mushrooms- I can't wait to try it!

ablackman said...

Gerb, allow me to intervene here for a moment and address the obvious lack of respect or faith on the part of our dear Rebecca.

Now, Rebecca, even I know (after looking it up on Webster's online dictionary, I'll admit) that the word smidgen and smidgeon are perfectly interchangeable synonyms (as is smidgin). Smidgen, however, is slightly more commonly used than smidgeon. Even the spelling checker built into this comment box tags smidgeon and smidgin.

Having said that, Rebecca, if you want to see a misspelling in Gerb's last post, go look in the third paragraph where she writes...

"I knew that the only was to dispel the feeling was to prove to myself that it was self-induced."

Did you notice that she spelled "way" with an 's'?

Now do you feel giddy?

(you gotta hurry and look, because you know she'll goe correct it real soon)

ablackman said...

I looked it up and "goe" is also found in Webster's online dictionary.

It is defined as "a common misspelling or typo for: gee, go, gob, god, goes, gone, gore, got."

Maria said...

You grew and dried your own basil?? Nevermind the nine kids part...you grew and dried your own basil?? Amazing! This recipe post is PERFECT!! LOVE all the pictures. I'm making this next Tuesday. Gerb...basil. You never cease to amaze...

Teachinfourth said...

Gerb you are so right! Making that soup is about the easiest and most delicious thing ever. I will forever be grateful to Marci for sharing that recipe with me as well.

I loved the photo essay, I felt like I was there making the soup with you...only I just couldn't taste it.


Gerb said...

Leslie- Great to meet you Saturday. As far as winning something... I have a keychain you can have. ;)

Rory- It's a keeper. I hope you guys like it.

Rachel- You might want to throw in some tobasco sauce or something. You guys like things spicy, right?

a) Amen.
b) Thanks.
c) Awwww... (sniff)
d) my blackman covers this topic completely in his comment.
e) I sang it out loud when I wrote it, like this: "Veggies FREEEEEEEE, free-fallin'!"
f) Have you been talking to Hubba?
g) Thanks for the validation. I am no longer removing stems.
h) It is never too soon. Come over now & have some left over soup!

Michelle- It was SO GREAT to meet you, too! And, um... I'm not so sure I can do any more posts like this. It took a lot of work and I think Pioneer Woman's shoes are much too big to fill. But thanks for the ego boost!

Gina- Double validation on the spinach stems. Thank you. And another dollar store tip: 6.5 ounces of cinnamon as well as almond extract. For a dollar.

Kimm- It was great to see you again, blogger buddy. Give the soup a try!

Natalie- It is worth it, I promise! And thanks.

blackman- Funny, I looked at that post and 'way' was spelled correctly. Are you sure your eyes weren't deceiving you? ;) By the way, thanks for looking up all that stuff. It's nice to know you've goe my back.

Maria- YOU can grow your own basil! It is SO easy peasy! (Does PW say that? Easy peasy? because I certainly don't.)

T5th- The old tri-color tortellini looked AND tasted better, I think. What do you think the chances are that we could get the store to carry it again? I can only find this WF brand now. And hey, if you really want some soup, come and get some. Seriously. I always make enough for leftovers.

Amy said...

I measure my butter. Just so you know. I'm just that kind of gal. Will you still be my friend?

Anaise said...

I've read a few Pioneer Woman recipes and they annoy me because I don't want pictures at every step of the way--all I want is a general list of ingredients and a general idea of how they go together.

That said, your post was worth reading because you make me laugh.

Rachel said...

Yeah. We like things spicey. But not everything has to be spicey. I'm thinkin' Tort. Soup would be one of those things.

Gerb said...

Amy- I measure mine, too. But do you measure it following the lines on the packaging, regardless of where the lines end up? Either way, we're still tight.

Anaise- It felt silly to take pictures of every little thing... but it was fun. Thanks for laughing.

Lori said...

Man. I had to scroll down for forever and ever to get to post a commen. I felt like I was on PW's site or sumthin. ;) That soup looks delish. Descrumptious. And I don't even eat tortellini. Not because I don't like it, just because I'm southern and we tend to eat biscuits instead. But I'm trying this.

Love all the pics. I'm sort of inspired to not be lazy with my recipes, like I have been. I mean, if that's what it takes to get a zillion comments....I have a hard time holding my honking camera steady with one hand, though, while holding the spoon or etc with the other. Just cuz it weighs about the same as a gallon of milk. How'd you do that? And did you set the timer for the shots of you and Little O?

Love the "unposed" pic there at the end--hilarious!

Okay. Go write a cookbook.

Or maybe we can all get together, and do a new "best recipes from the best blogs" blog? Whaddaya think? With tons of photos and a cookbook deal in the works, of course?

Kara said...

After all the work to do this post it must seem worth it to get all these comments. Way to go! Thanks for a reminder of a great soup. I haven't made this in a long time.

I have to ask about this group you have a picture of. Do they live around here? I ask because I recognize one of the the ladies from high school. Her name is Katherine (sorry I don't know a current last name, it was Tate in high school).

Gerb said...

Lori- I never know which posts are going to get the comments... but when I get a bunch I am always elated over it. Thanks for scrolling down to leave one.

As for my camera, it's a little point-and-shooter and very manageable with one hand. The pictures of Little O and I were taken with one hand while the other offered comfort.

Talk about recipes... you just posted a bunch that I want to try! And hey, if YOU want to start a recipe blog, I'll be happy to contribute on occasion. ;)

Kara- One goes by Kate... I'll ask her if she used to be Kate Tate and let you know. Now go make yourself some soup!

Rubie said...

Okay, so I am at work and should be working....nevermind that...I just found your blog randomly hitting next blog and I must say...I will officially be following it! This post was awesome and made me laugh! Love the PW style post....you can rival her in funniness...have you ever thought of challenging her to a cook-off? The soup looks delish!

cari said...

Way more entertaining than the Pioneer Woman! Looks delicious! :)

Gerb said...

Rubie- Thanks for stopping by! I look forward to seeing you more often. Um... me? Challenge PW to a cook-off? I'm going to say... no. But your confidence in me is admirable.

Cari- Aw, shucks. You just say that because you know me. And as for the soup - give it a try. It's amazing!

emily michelle said...

One quick question: should the tortellini be frozen? Can the tortellini be frozen? Does it matter? They looked frozen-ish, but the recipe didn't mention one way or the other and I don't cook tortellini enough to make an educated guess. Anyway, I'm excited to have the recipe--your husband brought it to our work party and it was pretty superb.

Gerb said...

em- The tortellini I use is frozen but it doesn't have to be. It can be the refrigerated kind or even the kind you find on the dry noodle aisle.

I'm glad you enjoyed it! I made some for our family (this post) the day before and Allen asked if I could make another batch for the work party. I'm easily flattered, so I agreed.

annette said...

I have never been so entertained while simply reading a receipe before! Gerb- you are the best and I am definitely one of your biggest fans! (although, you probably already know that!)