The famous Italian dish, Tortellini en brodo, is a beautiful, well-known holiday pasta and broth soup upon which my simplified, shredded-beef American version is based. I truly didn’t have this dish in mind, I just happened to have a pot roast, a bunch of tortellini, and a desire for something besides the things I usually make with pot roast on a cold snowy day: pot roast and vegetables, beef-vegetable soup, beef-barley soup, beef burgundy, and so on.
If you’d like to make the real Tortellini en brodo, visit a blog that has the directions in English; many are in Italian! Here’s a good home-made blogger’s version (Stefan’s Gourmet Blog) that is totally from scratch, including the meat filling for the tortellini, and looks luscious. If you’d rather have a little video action and a Mario Batali recipe, here’s that link. The simplest shortcut recipe is here. In other words, you’re not cooking meat for broth, bones for stock, or making homemade pasta and filling in my soup, but you are cooking a pot roast! And while my ingredients’ list isn’t short, the method is simple and gives you time for other things.
Because while writing the recipe, I realized it sounds long and ponderous, you can read — and cook from, if you like — the basic method, or the short version:
Brown a well-seasoned pot roast with carrots, onions, garlic, celery, and fennel and cook until tender — 2 – 2 1/2 hours — in wine, tomatoes, and broth (a little more than 3 quarts liquid) with bay leaf, dried oregano, and basil. Shred the beef, chop or puree the cooked vegetables, and cook the pasta and peas in the broth while you do that. Stir it all together, add a small handful of fresh basil and garnish in bowls with parsley and Parmesan cheese.
While the beef cooks, a couple of hours, you have time to work on a project, read a good book, watch a movie, or have coffee with a friend. If you’d like to cook this in the slow cooker, I think you would have some success, though I haven’t tried it. A link for similar recipe made in a slow cooker (tortellini is added the last twenty minutes) is here. Buon appetite!
tortellini and shredded beef in broth with vegetables
tortellini in brodo con carne di manzo tagliuzzato e verdura
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3-4 pound beef chuck roast (let the beef sit out a half hour or so to warm up a bit)
- Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, crushed red pepper
- 3 carrots, trimmed, but whole
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 stalks celery, cut in half
- 1 fennel bulb, cored, and sliced, optional
- 1 cup white wine
- 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes
- 4 cups water
- 1 quart beef stock
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon each: dried oregano and basil
- 6 sprigs each: fresh parsley and thyme, plus extra parsley for garnish (plus more parsley for garnish)
- 18 ounces fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
- 1/4 cup julienne fresh basil
- 2-3 drops hot sauce, optional
- Garnish: 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Garnish: 1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley
- Add the olive oil to a 10-quart stockpot and heat over medium-high flame. Season the roast generously on both sides with kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon), fresh ground pepper (1/4 teaspoon), and a pinch (1/8 teaspoon) crushed red pepper. Place in the pot with the carrots, onions, garlic, celery, and fennel if you’re using it. Brown the roast well — 10 minutes or so –on each side. (If you’d like, you can instead brown the roast first, then add the vegetables, cooking another 5 minutes before adding liquids. I like cooking vegetables with the meat.)
- Pour in wine and let cook down for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring up the bottom of the pot. Pour in tomatoes, water, both stocks and add bay leaves, oregano and basil. Stir. Tie together the parsley and thyme with kitchen string (bouquet garni) and lay on top of everything.
- Bring to a boil, lower heat to a healthy simmer, cover, and let cook until meat is very, very tender, about two – two and a half hours.
- Remove and discard the bouquet garni and the bay leaves. Remove the beef to a cutting board and let cool briefly. Using a large slotted spoon or spatula, remove the large pieces of vegetables and chop by hand or puree in the food processor. Set aside.
- In the meantime, bring the broth back to a boil, lower heat a bit, and taste. Adjust seasonings, if needed. Add the tortellini, cooking according to directions — about 5 minutes for fresh and 10 for frozen, depending on size and filling. Add the green peas for the last couple of minutes.
- Using two forks or your fingers, shred the beef, discarding any large pieces of fat or gristle. Return the shredded beef and the chopped or pureed vegetables back into the broth. Heat through, make sure the tortellini and the peas are as tender as you like, and stir in fresh basil and hot sauce, if using. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Serve hot garnished with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese. Pass the pepper mill at the table.
Wine and Accompaniments: While you might think you’d like a robust red and a big loaf of bread with this meal, I don’t think it calls for it. (Go for it if you’re determined.) The meal is warming and filling, but also on the brothy and light side–lots of vegetable feel. I don’t think it needs salad either, though some crunchy fresh vegetables might be an attractive contrast. A generous glass of a not-too-chilled, nicely-bodied white would be my choice for wine. Nothing grassy, citrusy, or too highly-acidic (skip the Sauvignon Blanc), look for a more well-rounded wine like a Chardonnay or White Burgundy, a Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio, even a Viognier or an Albariño. Go to the wine shop, find someone to talk to, and giving the clerk your dollar limit–don’t be shy–, choose something new!
Sing a new song; cook some tortellini and drink a wine you’ve never had before,
Disclaimer: I have no training in wine selection other than a long life of cooking, but am happy to just share what I’m drinking or might like with the food I cook. If you’d like some expert food and wine advice, I’m partial to Andrea Immer Robinson’s books or you might splurge on THE FOOD LOVER’S GUIDE TO WINE by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.