The first day of spring may be a hop, skip, and a jump away. But the weather here in Toronto clearly didn’t get the memo. As I write this snow is falling outside my window. Thankfully, the ground isn’t cold enough for the snow to accumulate in any major way. So I doubt I’ll have to take a shovel to it, but man, it’s still kind of crushing. And I know this isn’t the last of the snow, not by a long shot. That’s why I’m keeping my winter boots at the ready and recipes like today’s Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup in my back pocket. Let’s face it, we have at least another month of soup season ahead of us, so let’s dive right in.
Some leftover marinara from a pizza recipe (coming soon, stay tuned) gave rise to this soup. Sometimes my best food ideas come from a quick scan of the fridge. In my line of work, you tend to have a treasure trove of delicious odds and ends at any given moment. So even meals that are comprised largely of leftovers can come off as premeditated, even a little bougie. This flatbread you all lost your ever-loving mind over on Instagram is one shining example.
Today’s Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup exists because I had three lonely sausages, the end of a carton of cream, and the aforementioned marinara to use up. And I am so so glad it exists because, my gawd, is it good. Now, obviously, this soup isn’t all leftovers. The fennel, cheese tortellini, and kale were purchased for the cause. And yes, this assembled cast of leftovers did indeed yield more leftovers. But there is something so pleasing about rescuing bits of food from the brink. It’s no secret that working in any capacity in the food industry can result in a lot of waste. Luckily, in my line of work, it’s fairly minimal but it’s not non-existent. So when I get a to avoid it, it’s a very good day.
I also love working with leftovers because they provide me with structure. Many people believe to be truly creative you have to free yourself of boundaries. I would argue that it is precisely the opposite. Whenever I plan a recipe or shoot, I am making a universe when there are rules of composition. There’s a color story, a mood. What might fly in one shoot or one recipe, may not make much sense in another. The rules you make when creating are usually rules of your own making but they are rules because making anything without structure is pretty difficult to pull off and nearly impossible to pull off well.
When you have leftovers, you already have rules in place that are not of your own making. You have to use marinara, you have to use sausage and it’s within that structure that you create. I’m not going to lie, I find it easier to do. And because I despise food waste, a lot more satisfying. But enough about my creative process, let’s talk soup because I’m starting to feel pretentious.
Another thing to love about this soup is it comes together in under an hour and in a single pot. And everything kicks off with the sausage. Now, I removed the casing from my sausage because I wanted more of a ground pork vibe. But you could totally fry your sausages up whole and cut them into medallions. You’ll still render a sufficient amount of fat in the bottom of the pot to flavor and lubricate the dish throughout the cooking process. Once your sausage is browned, remove it from the pot using a slotted spoon, so we can keep all that lovely fat in there because that’s what we’re going to fry our fennel in.
I used half a bulb of fennel for this recipe and I felt like that was more than enough. But if you happen to have a smaller bulb, you can add the whole thing. I sliced my fennel into wedges, which resulted in larger chunks of fennel in the finished soup. If that doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to give your fennel a dice. Once the fennel hits the fat, don’t disturb it. We want a nice golden crust to build up on all sides of the fennel, and that won’t happen if we jostle it about constantly.
Once the fennel is golden, it’s time to add the marinara. Now, I had homemade marinara that I had to use up. But if you don’t have any homemade on hand, storebought will do just fine. To that, we add the chicken stock and fresh oregano and let the whole thing simmer. And honestly, the rest of this recipe is essentially a dump-and-go operation. Add your sausage back in, then add the tortellini followed by the kale. Let everything simmer until tender, then take the soup off of the heat and stir in the cream. The cream is optional as well. You’ll still have a perfectly delicious soup without it, but I was feeling decadent.
So that’s everything you need to know about this Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup with Fennel. It’s rich, creamy, and it comes together in 45 minutes flat. The perfect bowl for a snowy evening.
Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup with Fennel
- 1 large heavy bottom pot
- 3 hot Italian sausages casing removed
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- ½ bulb fennel fronds removed and reserved, cut into thin wedges
- ¼ cup pernod **
- 1½ cup marinara homemade or store bought
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 5-6 sprigs fresh oregano *** tied together using butcher's twine
- 1 head kale stalks removed, torn into bite-sized pieces
- 300g (10.5oz) cheese tortellini
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- crushed red pepper flakes for sprinkling
- Place a large pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and fennel seeds and fry until the sausage is browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage and set it aside.3 hot Italian sausages, 1 tsp fennel seeds
- Arrange the fennel wedges in an even layer on the bottom of the pot. Fry until golden on both sides. About 2-3 minutes per side. Try not to disturb the fennel too much, it will prevent it from searing.½ bulb fennel
- Once the fennel is golden, add the Pernod, marinara, and chicken stock. Bring the mixture up to a boil before reducing to a simmer. Add the oregano and simmer the soup for 15 minutes.¼ cup pernod **, 1½ cup marinara, 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock, 5-6 sprigs fresh oregano ***
- Once the 15 minutes are up, remove the oregano and return the sausage to the pot. Add the tortellini and simmer for 5 minutes before adding the kale. Simmer until the kale wilts.300g (10.5oz) cheese tortellini, 1 head kale
- Take the soup off of the heat and stir in the cream. Taste and season with salt accordingly. Divide the soup across four bowls and garnish with crushed red pepper flakes and the reserved fennel fronds. Serve immediately with crusty bread.¾ cup heavy cream, crushed red pepper flakes