italian sausage tortellini soup

Tortellini Soup

Summer vacation is over and school is back in session, so it is time for my behind to get into the swing of dinner planning with the onslaught of homework, practices, and oh yeah…life.  Some people treat the new year as a time for resolutions, but my resolutions have always come during vacation time.  I always seem to reflect over that time as to what I can do better or change when I get back.  This year on vacation, I decided that it was a goal of mine to really try and plan better for a variety of breakfasts for my kids as well as dinner, since it is often just the three of us eating.  I will always have my boxes of mac and cheese at my disposal, but I really wanted to try and cook for all of us this year and not for just the kids.  But cooking dinner for just three people, two of whom are under 5 feet tall, is another task.  It requires being able to chop onions and trying to remember (and explain) what makes a prime number prime.  It also, at times, has you stirring at the stove, all the while instilling fear of what’s to come, because someone was mimicking her brother and so he decided to retaliate with a body slam.  I love dinner time during the week.  It’s chaotic.  But it is a time to savor.  You learn so much just sitting and talking.  So that is what drives me to plan better, and hope that all the other commitments don’t get in the way (I know I am dreaming).  So after doing the guilty pleasure this weekend of perusing Pinterest (I really feel guilty at the amount of time you spend on that site!), I found a recipe that I knew the kids and I would like because of the tortellini, so I made it this week.  I loved this soup, and it doesn’t suck up all the broth like some do after putting it in the fridge.  I definitely would make this again – and hope that no body slams or nerf injuries occur next time I make it.

italian sausage tortellini soup (adapted from

1  lb. italian sausage, mild or hot
2  TB olive oil
1  medium onion, chopped
3  cloves garlic, minced
2  tsp dried basil
1  medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, chopped into quarter rounds
1  bay leaf
crushed red pepper
kosher salt and pepper
8  cups chicken stock
2  (15) oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1  lb frozen chopped leaf spinach, thawed
2  (9) oz pkg of refrigerated tortellini
grated Parmesan cheese – optional

italian sausagechopped onion

get started on the tortellini soup:

In a large pot over medium high heat, add the olive oil.  Remove the casings from the sausage and place in the pot.  With a wooden spoon, break apart the sausage into bite size pieces.  Brown the sausage until almost cooked through.  Add the chopped onion, garlic and dried basil.  Cook until the onions are turning opaque, about 4 minutes.

Add in the zucchini, bay leaf, a couple pinches of crushed red pepper (amount depends if you use mild or hot sausage), salt and pepper to taste.  Stir everything to combine.  Add broth and the diced tomatoes and simmer for 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the thawed spinach and stir.  Taste broth and adjust seasoning if needed.

zucchinisausage mixture

Add the tortellini and cook until the tortellini is tender, 8 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf and serve.

soup mixturetortellini at the top

note:  this serves 6-8 people.  Garnish with cheese and enjoy!

bowl of soup


stovetop sausage mac and cheese

spoonful of mac

I have now officially entered the world of children’s sports, and have seen how it can suck out every last bit of sanity that one person might have.  I thought I was an organized person.  I thought wrong.  I thought I was able to balance work, laundry, homework, dinner, and of course, their practice and game schedule in addition to all the things I wanted to accomplish during the course of the day.  I thought wrong again.  Did I mention seeing my husband?  It’s May and I haven’t started my garden.  I vowed to walk the dog more, but that isn’t happening.  My daughter has a storage box on the floor in her room, with all her summer clothes in it, because I haven’t been able to go through her drawers and remove all her winter gear.  My son keeps losing his baseball socks, so trips to Dicks Sporting Goods is like an everyday occurrence it seems.  How often do you wash his protective cup anyway?  My hair is down to my mid back because I haven’t made myself a haircut appointment, so it is piled on top of my head, and I am beginning to look like Marge Simpson.  I guess I could go on, but it happens to everyone so I’ll get over it.   The craziness of spring sports won, and I lost.  I really had faith that my color-coded Sharpie calendar and Excel spreadsheet would carry me through the season, but no amount of appointment reminders or carpooling matters when you realize that your son’s equipment is in your husband’s car and all you have in the fridge is butter and margarita mix.
So last week, after an afternoon of soccer and baseball, I kaboshed the request for fast food for dinner, as I normally do, because I realized I had the makings for this stovetop macaroni and cheese.  Ok so it isn’t that far from fast food, but in my mind it was a home-cooked meal and that is all that mattered.  I was very pleased with myself for about a half hour, until I realized that they all had games the next day and I had to go and wash more uniforms.  Little victories…little victories…

stovetop sausage mac and cheese  (adapted from Cooking Light)

8  oz. turkey sausage, or a mix of italian mild and hot sausage (about 4 links)
6  roasted bell peppers from a jar, chopped
2 1/2  cups low-fat milk
4  TB flour
8  oz shredded reduced-fat mexican style shredded cheese (or cheddar)
1/2  cup reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1  tsp onion powder
1/2  tsp garlic powder
kosher salt and pepper
1  lb. elbow macaroni, cooked

roasted peppers

get started on the mac and cheese:

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil.  Add kosher salt, and cook macaroni until almost done.  Remove macaroni and drain.

pastasausage and peppers

Heat a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat and add sausage.  Remove casings from the sausage and break up in the pan into bite sized pieces and sauté for 5 minutes or until browned.  Add roasted peppers to the pan and cook for a minute longer.  Combine milk and flour in a bowl, and stir with a whisk.  Add milk mixture to the pan and bring to a boil while stirring.  Reduce heat to medium.  Stir in cheeses, onion powder and garlic powder until cheeses melt, stirring constantly.  Stir in pasta.

stirring the mac

note – this makes a lot.  I served it as a side dish a few days later by adding some to muffin cups and baking it at 375 for about 15 minutes.  Use cooking spray!

muffin macbaked mac

turkey sausage and spinach lasagna

lasagna slice

I have a new friend.  His name is turkey sausage.  Wow that sounds bad.  Anyway, I meant to say that I have been getting bored with always substituting ground turkey in dishes to get away from beef and so when I came across this recipe in Cooking Light using turkey sausage, I had an ‘aha’ moment.  I ripped that recipe right out and I am really glad I did.  This recipe rocks.  I was doubly excited because it wasn’t a lasagna with red sauce which my daughter isn’t fond of…(need to change that!).  It really was a hit with them.  Now if you want the 332 calorie version you need to follow the Cooking Light recipe.  I couldn’t fathom only using 2 links of sausage.  How was that going to distribute over an 11×17 space and inside 2 layers?  Not happening.  4 links it is.  I also couldn’t understand using only one ounce of shredded mozzarella cheese.  What’s the point?  Is that a pinch?  So I shook out enough cheese to nicely cover the entire lasagna without being disgusting.  Oh and the funniest change I had to make was to the stingy 2 lasagna noodles per layer.  I used enough to cover the pan – about 5.  So they say the way to hell is paved with good intentions.  It was damn good lasagna.

turkey sausage and spinach lasagna  (adapted from Cooking Light)

Cooking spray
4  4 oz links hot turkey sausage
1  cup Portobello mushrooms, diced
1  cup yellow onion, diced
1  clove garlic, minced
1  10 or 12 oz pkg. spinach
1/4  cup flour
1  cup 1% milk
1  cup unsalted chicken stock
2  TB olive oil, divided
2  bay leaves
1/4  tsp kosher salt
1/2  tsp ground black pepper
15  no-boil lasagna noodles
4  oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1  oz grated fresh Parmesan cheese

onions & mushrooms

get started on the lasagna:

Preheat oven to 375.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Spray pan with cooking spray.  Remove casings from the sausage and add to the skillet, breaking up into small pieces.  Cook 4 minutes or until browned.  Add mushrooms and onions.  Cook until onions are softened and then add the garlic.  Add spinach and cover with lid.  Cook for 2 minutes or until spinach is wilted.  Stir to combine.  Remove pan from heat.

spinach and sausage mixture

Spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife.  Combine flour and next four ingredients (through bay leaves), in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk.  Cook 8 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper.  Spread 1 cup of the milk mixture in the bottom of an 11×17 glass dish coated with cooking spray.

slurrylasagna building

Arrange 4 noodles across milk mixture, slightly overlapping, with a fifth one cut to fill in the bottom space.  Top with 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese and one-third of spinach mixture.  Repeat mixture twice.  Sprinkle finished lasagna with mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.  Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 40 minutes.  Remove foil.  Change oven temperature to broil.  Broil for 4 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.  Let stand ten minutes before serving.

lasagnalasagna slice

Note:  serves 6.