This soup can be made from beginning to end in about an hour, and it will easily feed six or more.
Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup
(heavily modified from an old issue of Bon Appetit Magazine)
4 links sweet or hot Italian-style sausage, casings removed (see photos below)
1-2 onions, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, pressed or finely chopped
6 cups water
3 beef bouillion cubes
3/4 lb chopped fresh tomatoes (we usually use plum tomatoes)
1 8-ounce can plain tomato sauce
1 large zucchini, cut into chunks
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 green bell pepper, chopped coarsely
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 Tblsp dried basil
1 Tblsp dried oregano
8-16 ounces frozen cheese tortellini
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Remove casings from the sausages, then fry in a large pot with a little oil until cooked through, breaking up the sausages with a spatula as you fry them. Transfer sausage to a separate bowl and pour off most of the sausage fat left in the pot (leave ~1 Tbsp of fat or so).
[CK note: If you really want to go low fat, you can drain all the fat from the pot and strain the sausage under hot water, then add a Tablespoon or so of olive oil back to the pan before the next step.]
Saute onion and garlic on medium heat in the remaining sausage oil for ~5 minutes. Then, add back the sausage, and add all of the remaining ingredients except the tortellini and Parmesan cheese (water, bouillion cubes, tomatoes, tomato sauce, zucchini, carrots, green pepper, red wine, basil and oregano).
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for ~40 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
Then add tortellini to the soup and simmer for another 8 minutes.
Serve in soup bowls, sprinkled generously with parmesan cheese.
Serves 6+ easily.
A few notes:
1) A quick tutorial on removing casing of sausages (with apologies to vegetarian readers!). It's easiest to do this when the sausages are mostly thawed. And be prepared to get slightly messy hands.
First, work a knife under the sausage casing:
Then cut it along the length of the sausage as shown:
At this point you'll see how the casing will peel off relatively easily.
2) For some reason, the team here at Casual Kitchen has a consistent problem of forgetting the cheese tortellini. Either we forget to put tortellini on the grocery list so we leave the store without them, or we flake and forget to add them to the dish at the end. It's a non-catastrophic, yet still annoying, error that we've made enough times such that Laura wrote "don't forget!" on the ingredient list next to the tortellini. I thought I'd share this to let readers know that here at Casual Kitchen we flake out and forget things too.
3) You know my view on excess salt. In its original form, this dish called for five cups of water and five (five!) bouillion cubes. That's cheating. We've cut it down to three cubes in six cups of water and have found the dish tastes great this way, but you are welcome to try and take the cube count down further still if you like. Let me know how it comes out.
4) Finally, if you're interested in a more detailed photoset of the entire recipe making process, I've made it available on flickr for you. Enjoy!