Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tortellini soup from pantry, fridge, freezer

Balsamic vinegar used to be a staple in my kitchen, but in recent years it's fallen out of favor. I think that's because it's become so pervasive as an ingredient that the flavor somehow seemed less special.

When I was making this soup, I had to dig deep in my pantry to unearth the balsamic. It was on the top shelf, behind a few bottles of wine, a big bottle of vanilla and not one but two bottles of sherry vinegar.

My search was worth the effort. Just 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar deepens and melds the flavors in this simple but satisfying soup.

And while I was in the pantry, I grabbed the olive oil, an onion, fresh garlic, a box of chicken stock, a can of tomatoes, a can of garbanzo beans and dried basil and oregano. (In summer, I would have stepped outside and picked them from my herb garden.) The tortellini was in the fridge, and the spinach and leftover pesto was in the freezer.

You can use any type of tortellini or another small stuffed pasta. If you don't have garbanzo beans, substitute cannellini beans or omit them entirely. Shredded cooked chicken would make a good substitution, too.

Yield: 6 servings

1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken stock
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2/3 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen loose-leaf spinach
1 (10-ounce) package refrigerated tortellini (pesto, mushroom or another variety)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons basil pesto, optional (see note)

Heat oil in a medium nonstick soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook, stirring, until tender. Stir in garlic; cook briefly, then add chicken stock, tomatoes and their juice, basil and oregano. Bring to a simmer.

Remove from heat; purée to desired consistency with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. Return to heat; add garbanzo beans, then bring to a simmer. Cook until flavors blend and the soup thickens slightly, about 30 minutes.

Increase heat to high; bring soup to a boil. Stir in spinach, tortellini and vinegar; cook until spinach is hot and tortellini is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Stir in pesto, if using, and serve.

Note: I freeze extra pesto in small mounds on a parchment-covered cookie sheet, then transfer the frozen pesto to freezer bags. Frozen pesto doesn't need to be thawed before adding to soups, stews, pasta sauces or other dishes.