This is the best Italian sausage & cheese tortellini soup recipe I’ve ever made, and it tastes like something you would eat at an Italian bistro!!!
My mother-in-love (Mimi) served this Italian sausage tortellini soup as part of our Christmas lunch this year, and I was blown away at how delicious it was! I am a soup fanatic, and this one won me over immediately. It tastes like something you’d eat at an Italian villa in the countryside. It is rich, robust, and delicious.
Mimi adapted this recipe to a slow cooker. I made mine (photo above) on the stovetop per the original recipe. Hers (pictured below) was every bit as yummy as mine, so you can’t go wrong either way (as long as you follow the initial steps of cooking that are outlined below).
This Italian soup has layers of flavor.
You build complex flavor by following several steps of the cooking process. There are not shortcuts to using these steps to get the homemade, Italian richness of this soup.
- First, by searing the sausage in sizzling hot EVOO, you get a rich spicy rendered fat.
- Second, when you saute the onions and garlic, use the sausage fat for richness.
- Third, get more flavor by deglazing the pan with red wine and adding the browned bits to the soup.
Use “good” ingredients.
As Ina Garten would say, “use good EVOO.” For this soup, use the best ingredients that you can find. I buy my ingredients for this soup at The Fresh Market, as they sell good quality parmesan rinds which are needed for this recipe. I buy Lucini Riserva Balsamic (sold at Fresh Market, Whole Foods & smaller markets). It is a bit pricey but is absolutely the best I’ve ever tried. For EVOO, California Olive Ranch Everyday is good quality (per Cook’s Illustrated taste tests). Colavita is also a good EVOO.
Use chicken or pork Italian sausage.
I used a combination of two links of hot Italian sausage (and one link of Italian Kale chicken sausage) from The Fresh Market meat case. I prefer hot Italian sausage, but use your preference.
Use refrigerated or frozen cheese tortellini.
I like the Buitoni refrigerated cheese tortellini and also frozen cheese tortellini (no particular brand). The small size is my preference. If you wanted to be creative, you could use a meat & cheese tortellini or other mixture.
Use real red wine.
Small bottles of red wine are sold at most grocery stores, although you may have to buy a 4 or 6 pack. At The Fresh Market, you can buy one small bottle, which will have enough wine for two batches of soup. I never ever use “cooking wine.” There is no comparison in most dishes, especially soup like this where the ingredients need to be top quality.
Use fresh baby spinach.
I used one package of baby spinach and just dumped the whole thing in the soup just before serving~no chopping necessary. Regular spinach would also work, as the spinach will wilt down. Just use fresh not frozen for best results.
Serve with crusty bread.
Be sure to serve crusty artisan bread with this soup. I found some frozen Alexia baguettes with garlic and chives at The Fresh Market. They baked for 18 minutes and were absolutely perfect for this soup. You can also buy an artisan loaf of bread or a French baguette and bake it to serve with this soup.
If you try this soup, please leave comments; I am dying to hear your thoughts! I promise you that it will not disappoint:-) As always, thanks so much for stopping by. Be blessed, and stay savvy!!!
- Extra virgin olive oil (high quality)
- 1 pound bulk hot or mild Italian sausage
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup dry red wine (or substitute chicken stock)
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- Parmesan rind (or a small hunk of cheese), optional
- 1 (9- or 12-ounce package) fresh or frozen tortellini (see Recipe Notes)
- 2 cups roughly chopped spinach (I used one bag baby spinach)
- Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes, to taste
- Shaved Parmesan and extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
- Heat oil in skillet over medium heat until sizzling hot.
- Add the Italian sausage (whole~not broken) and sear 2-3 minutes until golden on one side.
- Flip and sear the other side, another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Once sausage is lightly browned on both sides, start aggressively breaking it up with wooden spoon. (The goal is to get some delicious caramelization in the bottom of the pan as opposed to just steaming the ground meat in its own liquids.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to another bowl, leaving the fat in the pot.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and a big pinch of salt.
- Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for another 15 to 20 seconds, just until you start to smell its aroma.
- Add the red wine and increase the temperature to high.
- Allow the liquid to cook out at a rolling boil, scraping the bottom of the pot to release any brown bits.
- Add the canned tomatoes and juices to the pot.
- Use kitchen shears to cut the tomatoes into bite-sized chunks.
- Add the chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, Parmesan rind, and cooked sausage. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Bring the liquid to a boil, and add the tortellini.
- Reduce heat to medium-low.
- Add tortellini, and simmer until it is warmed through~about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add spinach to the pot; simmer until wilted.
- Taste and adjust seasoning. (Remove Parmesan rind if used.)
- Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and a dusting of shaved Parmesan.
For an easy side, use any leftover spinach to make a salad with your favorite vinaigrette, and add some frozen garlic bread if desired. Leftovers keep getting better; reheat with additional chicken stock or water, as needed.
Nutrition InformationYield 10 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 281Total Fat 19gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 13gCholesterol 38mgSodium 756mgCarbohydrates 11gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 15g