By Patty Catalano
As winter wanes into spring, it is perfectly normal to crave both creamy comfort food and the bright spark of fresh veggies. This soup has it all: tender chicken, chunky carrots, wisps of wilted spinach, bite-sized pillows of pasta and cheese, all with a silky broth to tie it together.
The Dutch oven is the workhorse of my kitchen. For most of the year it camps out on the back of my stove, awaiting the splash of oil and sizzle of onion. Some days this humble pot is filled with bread for baking, other days it’s slowly simmering stock. On Saturdays I use it to put grocery store staples to work in this simple, satisfying soup. Red pepper and garlic join the classic trio of onion, carrot and celery for a quick sauté.
Dig through the freezer to retrieve a rind of Parmesan saved for just such an occasion, or if you have not had the forethought simply purchase a pack of Parmesan rinds from the cheese counter of your grocery store. A few breasts of chicken simmer until tender enough to pull (although I’ve skipped this step and substituted the shredded meat of a rotisserie chicken in a pinch). Stir in two handfuls of greens – one spinach and the other mixed herbs – and a splash of half-and-half, and the soup is ready to serve.
Pull out your biggest spoon for a taste of velvety broth, cheesy tortellini, juicy chicken and tender vegetables in every bite. Even if your weekend plans leave you just an hour to spare before supper, this is the Saturday soup to warm you through bone-chilling winter days and mild spring nights.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium celery stalks, sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound total)
1 bay leaf
1 Parmesan cheese rind
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound refrigerated cheese tortellini
1 cup half-and-half
2 cups fresh spinach (about 2 ounces), coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Creamy Chicken Tortellini Soup
Melt the butter in a 4-quart Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and salt, and sauté until softened and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the carrots, garlic, celery and bell pepper, and cook until the carrots brighten in color, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the chicken breasts, arranging them in a single layer. Add the bay leaf and Parmesan rind, and then pour in the chicken broth. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Uncover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165 F, 8 to 12 minutes.Remove and discard the bay leaf and Parmesan rind. Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board, and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, add the tortellini to the soup and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once cool enough to handle, shred the chicken with 2 forks or cut it into bite-sized pieces, then add it back into the soup. Stir in the half-and-half, spinach, parsley, oregano, nutmeg and black pepper. Cook until the spinach wilts, 1 to 2 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
Recipe notes: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to four days. Tortellini will soak up the liquid upon storage, so you will have to add extra broth and half-and-half when reheating.
Patty Catalano is a contributor to TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking.