Sheri Castle’s Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup

Today’s guest post is edible–Sheri Castle’s recipe for Italian sausage and tortellini soup!  It’s the perfect warm, hearty dish for these chilly months. This is the first in a monthly series of posts in which the author will share delicious, healthy recipes that utilize fresh, local ingredients from her new book, The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Recipes for Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands and CSA Farm Boxes. -Alex

I have made untold gallons of this thick and hearty soup over the years. It is one of those rare and precious recipes that nearly everyone gobbles up with rave reviews. It’s quick, easy, homey, and filling. Served with hot garlic bread, it’s a complete meal. Doubled or tripled, it’s an easy and economical way to serve a crowd. The next time you need to take food to someone, take this soup.

This soup does not keep well after the tortellini is added. As the soup sits, even in the refrigerator, the cooked tortellini soak up all of the liquid, leaving them soggy and the rest of the soup too dry. So if you plan to serve leftovers for a few days, cook and store the tortellini separately and stir them into the soup when reheating.

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup

Makes about 2 quarts

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage
1 onion, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend
1/2 cup dry red wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 small zucchini, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 large carrot, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 medium red bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
12 to 16 ounces frozen cheese tortellini
Ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan or small Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

2. Slit the sausage casings open lengthwise with the tip of a knife and remove the sausage. Break the sausage into pieces the size of a small meatball and add them to the pot. Cook the sausage, stirring occasionally, until it is browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer into a bowl and set it aside.

3. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings from the pan. Stir in the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and herbs and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

4. Stir in the wine, scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, tomato sauce, zucchini, carrot, bell pepper and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are almost tender, about 15 minutes.

5. Stir in the sausage and tortellini and simmer until the pasta is al dente. (The cooking time depends on your type of tortellini; follow the package directions.) Season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Serve hot, topped with a sprinkling of cheese.

Sheri Castle is a food writer and cooking instructor based in Chapel Hill, N.C. Visit the author’s website here. Become a fan of her book on Facebook here, or follow the author on Twitter @shericastle.

From The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes by Sheri Castle. Copyright © 2011 by Sheri Castle.