Last week, summer poked its steamy little head back into our lives with a few days of heat. Thankfully, they were nothing compared to the high temperatures and humidity that we experienced over the sweaty summer of 2010. Still, it was enough to make the handful of comfortably crisp days from the week prior seem like a tease for those of us yearning for autumn.
When the seasons change, we tend to enact our yearly rituals to adapt. For example, when winter is looming we search for the box of heavy clothes, warm coats and snow boots hiding in the basement or attic, and cross our fingers for a blizzard-less season. As spring approaches we find an available weekend to clean the house, top to bottom, and open the windows for the first time in months. Several months later, some of us begin gearing up for swimsuit season with a strict diet that soon becomes a distant memory with the first taste of a hotdog from the grill. When autumn is around the corner, we pack away our beach clothes and exchange them for wool, denim and flannel. Just as I store my wardrobe from last season to make room for something more practical, I collect my summer recipes and place them at the bottom of the pile until next year.
When Mother Nature graced us with a few cooler days a few weeks ago, I took it as an opportunity to welcome fall foods back into my life. My brain is officially in harvest season, and the last week of warm weather couldn’t shake my craving for stews, ciders and warm casseroles. This recipe for Tortellini Soup was a compromise for the weather; the sweet, light taste of onions, tomatoes and spinach combined with a warm, meat-filled tortellini, bathed in broth.
Adapted from Kathleen Farmer
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 cans, Chicken Broth (I prefer College Inn, flavored with roasted garlic)
1 package (16 oz.) frozen meat tortellini
2 cups spinach leaves, packed
In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté 3- 5 minutes. Stir tomatoes into onion and cook until just softened. Add balsamic vinegar to mixture. Pour broth into pot and increase heat. Once liquid comes to boil, add tortellini and cook until done. Remove from heat and stir in spinach leaves until wilted.
The onion and tomato base creates a sweet undertone, broken up just enough by the balsamic vinegar. Chicken broth, pre-flavored, is key to adding pizzazz to this recipe; plain chicken broth can taste bland. Although it is often a flavor enhancer when added as a liquid substitute to dishes, plain broth would need added flavor when used in its most basic form. Not only does the College Inn brand have real roasted garlic in the can, using it subtracts the time it would take you to mince a few cloves yourself. Meat tortellini was my preference based solely on the audience I was cooking for; however, the pasta possibilities are endless; cheese filled pastas or even regular pasta shapes would work just as well.
My first experience with this recipe was created by one of my dearest friends, and old roommate, Kate. She uses asparagus as the green vegetable in this dish and will add a special sprinkle of shredded mozzarella to your soup bowl. Perhaps one of the many reasons I love this recipe for fall is the memory I associate with it; eating this at a “family dinner” after a long day at work, with my roommates in our old apartment. Something that once was routine and habitual is now an activity I fondly remember. Though many seasons have come and gone since then, I reminisce about happy memories every time I make this soup. No matter the temperature outside, it always feels like fall when I take my first slurp of this tortellini soup.