Fast Chicken and Tortellini Soup with Parmesan and Basil

Chicken-Tortellini Soup

Most of us have a thing for pasta and cheese; I know I’m not alone. Admit it; you’re in this club. Google macaroni and cheese if you’re unsure of my claim. (There are almost 24 million hits.)  We all mostly adore fast, filling, and luscious meals made in minutes from leftovers as well, right?  Wed the ultimately pleasurable pasta and cheese idea with a quick next-night dinner and we have a match made in heaven.


Loving tortellini and fresh pasta in general, I also know it’s a bit of a calorie and carb splurge — definitely for the occasional or oh-so-special meal.  By the way, tortellini does come in a whole wheat variety, though it might be a little difficult to locate.  What’s beautiful is that fresh pasta, and tortellini specifically, is available nearly anywhere these days and it cooks in just a couple of minutes in most cases. Here in Colorado Springs, I buy fresh tortellini at Costco and King Sooper’s (Kroger) and even fresher pasta of all sorts, including GF, from my down-the-street Italian market and deli, Mollica’s.  (Need large amounts for a dinner party? Call a few days ahead and they’ll have it ready for you.)

I make a batch or two of my go-to, eaten-to-the-last-bite tortellini salad  (below: Alyce’s Tortellini Salad) every summer to take to cook-outs or potlucks:


or sometimes make this one (below: Late Summer Vegetable-Tortellini Salad with Basil Vinaigrette) that serves as an entire meal out on the deck under the stars:



Come winter, to ward off a chill, I might stove top grill a few spicy–breathe deeply!– Italian sausages, stir up a small batch of marinara (based on Marcella Hazan’s famous ditty), and serve it all on top of a not-too-large base of cheese tortellini. A shower of grated Parmigiano Reggiano would gild the lily of this fast entrée and a crunchy salad would run along side or after. (I’m partial to Sara’s Sausage made right up the road in Palmer Lake, Colorado and probably would serve a bottle of Seghesio zin with our meal.)

The rest of the year, tortellini would be a hazy dream, not on the regular grocery shopping radar.  Unless, that is, I was looking for a fine, filling soup for our Friday night dinner that took, oh, no more than say 30 minutes?  That could use up the soon-to-be dried out chicken in the fridge? Or included boo coo vegetables begging for attention in the crisper? Perhaps treated a lingering sniffle or a heart crying over our country’s current state of affairs? By the time you’ve set the table and poured the wine, this soul-satisfying soup will be bubbly hot and ready to serve. Try this:



Pick up a package of fresh cheese tortellini along with some chicken broth next time you buy a rotisserie chicken. Next night, stir up this luscious pot full of  warm, satisfying goodness. A bowl left?  There’s your lunch, though the pasta grows a bit overnight to create a homey chicken and dumplings effect–just a word to the wise!

  • 2 cups cooked, chopped or shredded chicken, set aside*
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence– can sub 1 1/2 teaspoons each dried oregano or thyme and basil
  • 2 cups finely shredded and chopped cabbage
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 9 ounces (approximate) fresh cheese tortellini
  • 3 cups fresh spinach
  • Fresh julienne basil — garnish
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — garnish

In a 6-quart heavy soup pot, heat oil over medium heat and add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, Herbes de Provence, and cabbage. Cook, covered but stirring often, until softening–5-7 minutes.  Pour in dry white wine and simmer, stirring up bits at bottom, another 2-3 minutes.  Pour in broth and bring to boil. Lower to a healthy simmer and cook another 3-4 minutes until cabbage is tender. Add tortellini along with the reserved chicken and cook until pasta is tender according to package directions. (Mine were 2 minutes.) Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in fresh spinach (or add on top when serving — see Cook’s Note below.)  Divide soup among bowls and serve hot garnished with basil and cheese.

*I had no leftover chicken, so I first stove top grilled 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cooled, and chopped them for my soup while my vegetables cooked.

Cook’s Notes: 1.  I also like this dish with a handful of the spinach added to the top of each bowl a la salad. You can stir it into your bowl (it will wilt quickly in the hot soup) or eat it on top and add another texture and color to your soup. This method will also avoid the spinach being over-cooked if you’re reheating the soup another day. You can save a bit of the grated cheese to go on top of the spinach. 2. This soup would, I think, work fine with other cooked proteins such as roast beef, pork, or turkey, cooked or smoked sausages, baked or sautéed tofu, small pieces of grilled salmon, or even leftover cooked shrimp. (Salmon or shrimp should go into the bowls cold with the hot soup ladled over them.)

WINE: Go light. An  Albariño or a Falanghina–even an Italian Chardonnay blend.

{printable recipe}

SLOW COOKER: You’ll by now know, if you spend much time at my table, I adore slow cooking, but it’s most often accomplished in a Dutch oven in my oven. If you want to see a similar soup that’s made in an electric slow cooker, look at this recipe.

If you like this, you might like my…

Tortellini and Shredded Beef in Broth with Vegetables (Tortellini en Brodo)


Be happy and guilt-free in eating your white flour pasta; you do it so seldom; please don’t say words like, “I’m being bad.” Really. Drink your wine and enjoy your dinner.


5 thoughts on “Fast Chicken and Tortellini Soup with Parmesan and Basil

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