Farmer's Market Italian Sausage-Tortellini Soup

Prep Time 13 min.
Cook Time 40 min.
Total Time 53 min.
Serves 12¾ cups

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces sweet Italian turkey sausage (bulk, or links cut open)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (about half a large onion)
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped green pepper (about 1 large, 7- to 8-ounce pepper)
  • 3/4 cup peeled, chopped carrot (about 1 medium, 5- to 6-ounce carrot)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 46-47 ounces fat-free, reduced-sodium beef broth (1 [32-ounce] carton + 1 [14.5-ounce] can)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce with Italian herbs
  • 1 (5.5-ounce) can vegetable juice (such as V8 Original)
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped zucchini (from a 12- to 13-ounce zucchini)
  • 2 tablespoons salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • 19 ounces frozen cheese tortellini (no need to thaw – see note)
  • 1 1/4 cups seeded, chopped tomato (from about 2 medium tomatoes)
  • 1 cup chopped baby spinach (about 1 to 1 1/4 ounces)
  • kosher salt to taste (about 1/2 - 1 teaspoon), optional (see note)
  • parmesan cheese for serving, optional

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot (I love my Lodge enameled cast iron pot), heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sausage, onion, green pepper, carrot, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally to crumble sausage (this is my favorite tool for breaking up ground meats), until sausage is cooked through and no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Drain if needed (if using lean turkey sausage, you probably won't need to.)
  2. Add broth, tomato sauce, vegetable juice, zucchini, and Italian seasoning. Cover, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low or medium-low to maintain a steady simmer, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add tortellini and tomatoes. Cover and increase heat as needed to regain a simmer, cooking for a total of 10 minutes more, or until tortellini are done.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in spinach. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding kosher salt only if needed so the flavors pop (see note).
  5. Serve immediately, passing parmesan at the table if desired.

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Recipe Notes

Tortellini: When cooking the tortellini, most package directions specify that tortellini, cooked from frozen in boiling water, need only a few minutes to cook, but since we are not cooking them at a full, rolling boil (we're gently simmering them), we allow slightly longer for them to cook and mingle with the flavors of the soup. We like them to be cooked through and al dente when serving, but not over-cooked and mushy.

Also, as noted in the post above, we recommend purchasing whole-grain pasta whenever possible, but the whole-wheat tortellini available in our local stores is notably higher in fat, and we always try to balance our preference for whole-grain foods against fat content and other nutritional issues. Just try to choose the healthiest tortellini you can find. There is a definite difference in the fat content of various brands, so read the labels carefully. 

Salt: As discussed at greater length in the post, the amount of salt you'll need to add at the end can depend on the sodium content and spices in the exact brands and products you purchase (especially the broth in this recipe). We usually find that we need to add about 1 teaspoon of salt at the end of cooking, but we recommend that you start with less and add just a little at a time until the flavors of this soup are really vibrant and rich. Also, if you're serving this soup topped with salty parmesan cheese, you may need a little less salt.

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