Although my preferred culinary style would hardly be classified as ambitious these days, back in my bachelorette life, my cooking was even more, er…low key, shall we say? Which is not to say that I was one to order take-out every night or that I lived on frozen meals. My friend Amanda and I used to cook together at least once a week and managed to make some pretty great meals, but if it’s any indication of the general complexity of our menus, I distinctly remember our cooking attempts being thwarted one time by neither of us owning a whisk.
Back then, I was much more willing to go along with the “Semi-homemade with Sandra Lee” style of cooking- not the perky sweater sets and Stepford Wife demeanor, but the rampant use of prepared ingredients and shortcuts. This recipe for tortellini, bean, and pesto soup (from one of my first cookbooks ever, Betty Crocker’s Great Main Dishes without Meat– a bargain starting at $0.25 on Amazon these days!) is a prime example and was one of my go-to dishes at the time. Using boullion (or cartons of store-bought chicken broth), dried packaged tortellini, canned beans, and jarred pesto, the whole dish came down to a little chopping, a little boiling, and voila! A “homemade” dinner in a mere 30 minutes or so, most of that spent lounging while the soup boiled away.
These days, though Dylan and I bake our own bread, make our own jam on occasion, and have even been known to infuse our own vanilla vodka, I still can’t resist a few shortcuts. Preferring the ease of canned beans, I have yet to take on their dried bretheren (yes, I know they must be better, I’m just not up to the challenge yet). I love fresh pasta but I hate the work of making it, so dried is perfectly suitable for me 99 times out of 100. And making chicken stock? No thank you. It’s all the long-time serious vegetarian in me can do to muster up the courage to trim the fat off of frozen chicken breasts.
I recently decided to revisit my old beloved tortellini, bean and pesto soup, having not made it in at least 2-3 years. Perhaps my tastes have become a bit more refined in the interim, a bit more used to “almost entirely”, rather than “semi”-homemade cooking, but the tortellini soup was just okay. Perfectly edible, a nice idea, but certainly not as exciting as I remembered it. Even I felt like it was a little “canned”, not as fresh and vibrant as the meals I’ve gotten used to. All of which got me thinking that were one to make this recipe with homemade chicken stock, handmade tortellini, rehydrated dried beans, and homemade pesto, it might once again rise to favorite status. Maybe someday, but I’m not quite there yet…
Tortellini, bean, and pesto soup (serves 6)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, cut into julienne strips or small “coins”
1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup chopped celery (about 1 medium stalk)
2 tbsp margarine or butter
6 cups water
2 tsp chicken boullion granules
1 can (15-16 oz) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 package (10 oz) dried cheese tortellini (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp pepper
6 tbsp pesto
6 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
1. Cover and cook garlic, carrot, celery, and onion in margarine/butter in Dutch oven over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in water and boullion. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat. Stir in beans and tortellini.
2. Cover and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until tortellini are tender. Stir in parsley and pepper. Top each serving with pesto and cheese. Serve immediately.