Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tortellini Soup

Cheese-Filled Tortelllini with Vegetables

I really like tortellini – pasta pillows filled with cheese, meat, or vegetables. Unfortunately, they usually don’t make appearances at the low sodium table. That’s because most of the time, they’re smothered with salty sausage-flavored meat sauce and topped with copious mounds of cheese. But when used in a flavorful soup, redolent with onion, garlic, vegetables, and lots of Italian herbs, you get a similar flavor but without all the sodium. Plus the soup is super easy to put together quickly.

I encountered this soup a few months ago at a local diner and wondered if I could make a low sodium version suitable for my husband. So the next time I went shopping, I spent time in the freezer section checking all the frozen tortellini. I was pretty happy when I found Armanino brand cheese tortellini. The label on the package said a serving size of 25 tortellini was 105 mg sodium. However, the website shows 230 mg sodium per serving.


2016 Update: Packages of Armanino frozen cheese tortellini now give 310 mg sodium/25 tortellini. This is quite a bit higher than what was previously listed. The website still cliams 230 mg. Luckily, another local store sells its house brand of frozen Six Cheese Ravioli with only 170 mg sodium/1/2 cup (113 g). The raviolis are a bit larger than the tortellinis, but the weight per serving is almost the same. So, I'll be using the frozen raviolis from now on.)

I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to pack 25 tortellini into one bowl of soup and figured the final serving would be closer to 10-12 tortellini. So I bought a package and headed home to make soup.

It couldn’t have been easier. I used one carton of unsalted chicken stock and a can of NSA diced tomatoes. To the pot I added one finely chopped onion, a couple of minced garlic cloves, a bay leaf, two peeled and sliced carrots, two sliced celery stalks, a tablespoon of salt-free Italian herb blend seasoning, and a couple grinds of black pepper. I simmered the vegetables in the broth until just tender. Then I added 20 – 24 tortellini. Once the tortellini was cooked through, I served the soup with some homemade low sodium bread. The soup was everything I had imagined – flavorful with enough chewy and cheesy tortellini to satisfy. As an added bonus it was unbelievably easy to prepare.

I’ve made it several times since that first experiment adding other vegetable with good results – coarsely chopped cabbage, sliced mushrooms, sliced leeks, frozen Italian green beans, chopped zucchini, and chopped fresh basil. (My favorite additions are leeks and fresh/frozen basil leaves.) However, I only use one or two additional veggies. I don’t want to distract from the brothy goodness. And when I have the time, I usually lightly sauté the onion and garlic. If I use extra vegetables, I sometimes use less than one serving’s worth of tortellini. That means even less sodium per bowlful.

It’s now my go-to quick meal when I don’t have anything planned, thawed, or am feeling under-the-weather. I make sure I always have a carton of chicken stock, a can of diced tomatoes, and a package of frozen tortellini ready for a last-minute yet satisfying meal. Leftovers are good the next day as part of lunch, and the recipe can easily be doubled.

Here’s the recipe, if you can call it that. It’s more a method rather than an exacting recipe. Feel free to add vegetables you enjoy. And good luck finding a fairly low sodium tortellini product in your grocery store.

Tortellini Soup
Serves 2 with leftovers
(Printable Recipe)

32 oz. no-salt-added chicken stock/broth
1 14-1/2 oz. can diced/petite diced no-salt-added tomatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1-2 carrots, peeled and sliced or chunked
1-2 celery stalks, sliced or chunked
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. or more Italian herb blend (no-salt-added)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 package low sodium frozen cheese tortellini/ravioli

Optional: (use only 1 or 2 additional vegetables)
Chopped fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, parsley
Additional vegetables such as coarsely chopped cabbage, thinly sliced mushrooms, thinly sliced leeks, frozen Italian green beans, and chopped zucchini

If desired, sauté onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and continue sautéing for another minute or two.

Add broth and tomatoes, bringing to a simmer. Add the vegetables and herbs; simmer until vegetables are just tender.

Add the number of frozen tortellini for one serving or less. Bring soup to a boil; lower heat; and simmer until tortellini is completely cooked.

Serve with an additional dusting of freshly ground pepper, a sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs, and a swirl of regular of flavored olive oil.


Cathy Z said...

I love reading about your low/no sodium stuff! MY dad, now gone, had high blood pressure all of my life. We ate without added salt all my growing up years. I am used to eating foods with no salt. It is shocking to see where all the hidden salt is lurking!

Thanks for sharing your story! I cant wait to read more of it! Just wanted you to know I was here. :)

shambo said...

Thanks for your comment. I agree with your assessment of the salt content in so many products found in our grocery stores.