One of the Joys of Maturity
Asiago Cheese & Tortellini Soup
A local grocery used to sell an asiago cheese and chicken tortellini soup in their deli that both my wife and I dearly loved. The employees at Baesler's Market in Terre Haute would comment when I went through checkout that the soup was their favorite. And then they just stopped selling it.
I began looking around the web for recipes for the soup. I found many interesting tortellini soup recipes and even one place online that sold a similarly named soup for $26/half gallon! But I never found quite what I was looking for. So I set about trying my hand at what I thought should make a good soup.
There were some spectacularly nasty failures along the way, but I finally came up with something very close to what we used to buy. It's certainly not a health food, but it is absolutely delicious.
We begin with chicken broth. We often buy bone-in chicken breasts on sale, remove, filet, and freeze the breast meat, and boil and bone the remaining bones, meat, and skins to provide chicken broth for chicken & noodles, Portuguese Kale Soup, and of course, asiago cheese & chicken tortellini soup. If we don't have any of our broth on hand, we go with canned Swanson chicken broth.
I season the broth with minced garlic, onion, finely chopped celery, and a carrot cut into quarter inch pieces. If I'm using canned broth, I also add chicken breast meat cut into 3/4" chunks. I omit the chicken breast meat if I'm using our own saved broth, as it already has lots of bits of chicken in it. I also add a heavy pinch of dried basil from our garden and a couple of tablespoons of parsley, either fresh or dried.
I allow the broth mixture to gently boil for 30 minutes to an hour, which reduces it in volume by about a third. At this point I have a really tasty chicken broth base that could be served as is or used for a variety of other recipes.
Now for the tortellinis! I use the Buitoni Three Cheese (ricotta, romano, and parmesan) Tortellinis for the soup. I tried using their herb chicken tortellinis half and half with the cheese ones last week, but didn't really like what it did to the soup. My choice of the Buitoni brand is simply because that is what the groceries around here carry, so you may find another brand in your area that better serves your purpose.
I generally buy the tortellinis in the 20 ounce package as I use over half a package for this recipe. They're also available in a 9 ounce package. The tortellinis freeze well, so we generally have a ziplock bag of them in the freezer.
I add enough tortellinis to the broth so that they stick out of the broth a bit and let the broth gently boil for a few minutes. While it's boiling, I mix about three rounded teaspoons (That's a tablespoon, right?) of general purpose flour with my heavy whipping cream in a shaker.
I add the flour-cream mixture to the broth and regularly stir the soup as it heats and thickens. I also begin adding grated asiago cheese a bit at a time at this point. If you add it all at once, it just sinks to the bottom of the pot and sticks (and possibly burns). You may want to add a few more tortellinis to the soup at this point. Doing so makes for a thicker soup, but less broth.
I'll tell one here on myself. I'm generous with the asiago cheese, as we have plenty of it on hand. I was in our local Sam's Club last year and came upon huge chunks of asiago cheese with a sign proclaiming a price of $3.59! I quickly grabbed the bargain, only to realize at the checkout that the cheese was $3.59/pound. But I needed asiago cheese, so I happily left the store with my $12 chunk of Asiago! When I got home, I cut it into three pieces, freezing two of them. And actually, $3.59/pound isn't a bad price at all for asiago.
I like to serve the soup with Crusty Italian Pane bread or rolls (from the same Baseler's Market that used to sell the soup). While leftover soup usually doesn't last long around our house, I have frozen the soup and found that it holds well in the freezer.
Add garlic, onion, celery, carrot, parsley, and basil to the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add chicken chunks and continue boiling gently for 30 minutes to an hour. Add tortellinis and bring to a boil again. Add flour-cream mixture and bring to a boil. Stir while simmering for 10-15 minutes while adding grated asiago cheese.
I've tried the variants of using yellow squash chunks and bell pepper pieces in the soup. Each adds its own favor to the soup, although I prefer it in its basic version above. As mentioned earlier, I've also tried using the herb chicken tortellinis, but really didn't like the result. My wife thought it was good, though.
Also note that the seasoned broth, after adding all the spices and such but before adding the tortellinis, would be a good starter for cream of broccoli soup. I'm going to try substituting broccoli, which we pleasantly have a lot of in our fall garden this year, for the tortellinis.
And yes, that's the pot of asiago cheese and tortellini soup simmering in the background as I prepared to blanch and freeze three giant heads of broccoli I cut today.
I had this recipe down pat some months ago, but held off on posting it. I wondered if it really fit on my Senior Gardening site. Then as I looked at what I was using in the soup, I realized that many of the ingredients came from our garden. The batch made for this recipe feature included just garlic, onion, and basil from our garden. Our carrots were used up weeks ago, and we don't have enough fresh parsley growing for this recipe.
And of course, the hardest part of making the soup today was slowing down and getting the measurements correct. I generally don't measure out what I put into our soup with measuring cups and such, but just put in pinches and handfuls until it looks and tastes right (or goes into the compost bucket as a failure ).
I hope you enjoy it!
As I'd suspected, our recipe for Asiago Cheese & Tortellini Soup is easily adaptable into a great recipe for cream of broccoli soup. Instead of adding tortellinis and asiago cheese to the seasoned chicken broth, one just purées broccoli in the broth and then thickens it with cream and flour.
I also sautéd the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots in butter before adding chicken broth. Once the broth had simmered a few minutes, I poured it into a food processor and puréed it while adding the broccoli. (BTW: This recipe is a great way to use up all the little broccoli pieces that fall off the heads in the freezer bag.) Then I simmered the broth a bit more before adding flour mixed in whipping cream to thicken the broth.
From Steve Wood, the at Senior Gardening
Last updated: 3/26/2014