Soup is a great way to use up whatever may be sitting around in your fridge and is about to go bad, or in this case…Thanksgiving leftovers. Bethenny Frankel, one of my favorite chefs and quite possibly my idol, calls soup “nature’s perfect food”, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s easy, nutritious, filling, comforting, and versatile. It’s economical and time-saving, too – spend one day making a huge pot of it, and you’ve got lunch for the rest of the week. And as you may have noticed by now, I love experimenting and being creative with food. With soup, I feel like anything goes, so it’s a great opportunity for me to do that.
Last year when I was visiting home for Thanksgiving, my mom started to feel the flu coming on. In an attempt to make her feel better, I took the opportunity to make a soup using our leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. It turned out heavenly. Not only was my mom sick, but it was also pouring rain outside and freezing cold. We had just come home from my brother’s hockey game and a long drive home in the hazardous weather, so we were looking forward to a warming, hearty, calming meal. It was just that, and I’ll never forget how wonderful it was. As much as I love to cook and eat, ultimately there’s nothing better than the feeling of cooking for someone you love.
This year thankfully my mom has not gotten sick over the Thanksgiving holiday, so today she made some homemade turkey stock using the carcass from our turkey yesterday. Here it is in the making:
The carcass still had a fair amount of turkey meat on it, plus a lot of the carrots, celery, and onions that were stuffed in the cavity were still in there. We were left with this bowl of moist, flavorful goodness:
There was no need to even whip out the bag of turkey meat we had in the fridge – this would certainly do. While my mom and I were out and about doing some Black Friday shopping, we stopped at the store on the way home and picked up the rest of the ingredients to the best of my memory:
I threw the bowl full of turkey meat in there for aesthetic value, since turkey is the star of this soup. But, like I said earlier, I ended up not needing it. That yellow-looking thing isn’t a block of cheddar cheese, it’s butternut squash that’s been pre-cut into quarters and packaged. I adore butternut squash, but it’s one of the hardest squashes to work with. It’s humongous, rock hard, difficult to peel and chop without an incredibly sharp knife, and I can never use a whole one before it starts to go bad. So, I spend the extra money and get it pre-chopped or quartered. But enough about ingredients, and on to the actual recipe:
Turkey Tortellini Soup
NOTE: This makes a lot of soup. Adjust it accordingly if you don’t want a lot leftover…but why wouldn’t you? :) Also, soup is anything but an exact science, so these measurements are vast estimations. I certainly didn’t measure while I was making it, and you don’t need to either. Just eyeball it and go with what looks like the right ratio. You’ll get it. Trust me, it’s hard to truly screw up a soup recipe.
- 2 quarts turkey stock or low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup cooked turkey meat
- 1 bunch rainbow Swiss chard leaves
- 1 cup butternut squash, cubed
- 1/2 package of frozen peas
- 1 can cannellini beans (also called white kidney beans)
- 1 1/2 cups three-cheese tortellini
- Parmesan cheese rind (optional…I’ll explain this)
- Salt and pepper
In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil, then turn the heat down until it’s at a simmer. Wash and dry the Swiss chard (it tends to have a lot of soil residue, so do this thoroughly). Tear the leaves off the stems and rip them up into small pieces. Cut the butternut squash into cubes if needed, making sure they’re all about the same size so that they have similar cooking times. Add the chard, squash, peas, beans (along with the juices in the can – just dump the whole thing in), and turkey. Let this simmer until you can easily poke a knife all the way through one of the pieces of butternut squash.
Add the parmesan cheese rind. The rind is the hard part that you’re left with after you’ve grated up a whole chunk of parmesan. It’s completely edible and tastes the same, but it’s harder and denser than the rest of the cheese and more difficult to grate. A great way to use it up is to throw it into soup – it add a subtle nuttiness and sharpness in the background. It’s an old tried-and-true Italian trick that I’m more than willing to pass along. Here’s mine looking a little melty already, right after I put it in:
It probably won’t melt all the way through, but this is perfectly fine, it still does its job. Next, add the tortellini, and let it cook for 5-6 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper, and adjusting the seasonings until it tastes good to you. If you’re using store-bought chicken broth, even if it’s low-sodium, you won’t need as much salt, so be careful with how much you add. Using homemade turkey stock, I found that I had to add quite a bit of salt and pepper before it tasted right to me. Once it’s seasoned, it’s ready to go. I like my soup with a hunk of nice crusty bread to sop up the broth, and a little sprinkling of parmesan over the top. It just adds that much more comfort to the whole experience.
Go ahead and make this soup for a sick friend or loved one, or just yourself if you’re in a cozy mood. Trust me, you’ll get just as much joy out of it as those you may feed it to.