Brothy Tortellini with Sausage and Kale
Standard wisdom for entertaining at home is to cook what’s tried and true. It’s not the time for pulling out new recipes and certainly not throwing all caution to the wind and making up your own. But that’s what I found myself doing recently when we invited friends to dinner and I couldn’t settle on a vetted dish. Luckily, my efforts paid off with this Brothy Tortellini with Sausage and Kale. I’ve now made it two times since.
A Bowl of Tortellini Comfort
It started with a kernel of an idea. It was chilly out and I craved that soul satisfying quality warranted during the winter months. I ruled out a meaty pasta as too rich and soup as too casual. Instead, I landed on a mash-up of the two, resulting in shallow bowls of pasta napped in broth seasoned with the heat of Italian sausage and earthiness of kale. It was just what I wanted.
What Type of Tortellini and Sausage
I was a little spoiled the first time I made this, since I splurged on handmade pasta from Flour & Water, a shop and restaurant famous for its Italian provisions. In follow-up experiments, I used cheese tortellini from the supermarket, which also did the trick. I recommend seeking out fresh tortellini, sold in the refrigerated section of the market, such as Buitoni, the Pasta Shop, or Kite Hill brands. If you can’t find fresh tortellini, swap in fresh ravioli rather than dried tortellini.
As for sausage, look for spicy Italian. Pork sausage will be fattier (and perhaps more flavorful), chicken and turkey sausage will be leaner and just right for folks who don’t eat pork. For folks sensitive to spicy foods, know that even though the recipe calls for spicy sausage, the heat is mellowed by the broth.
How to Make this Vegetarian
For a vegetarian version, look for meatless chorizo, such as Soyrizo. I’d start with six ounces, and then adjust if you need more flavor. Keep in mind that it will have more of a paprika-spiked Spanish flair than an Italian one, but will be tasty nevertheless. As for the broth, you can seamlessly swap vegetable for chicken.
Can you Make this Ahead?
You can make this dish earlier in the day and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Be sure to keep the cooked tortellini separate from the broth/sausage, so it stays al dente. Reheat the broth/sausage on the stove over medium. To reheat the tortellini, plunge it into boiling water for about 20 seconds before draining well.
What to Serve with Tortellini with Sausage and Kale
This has all the elements needed for a one-dish meal. That said, I wouldn’t argue with a salad on the side. Here are a few suggestions:
Simple Green Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
If you like Tortellini with Spicy Sausage and Kale, you might like:
Brothy Tortellini with Spicy Sausage and Kale
This satisfying one-dish supper is seasoned with the spice of Italian sausage and nourishment from a heap of kale. Keep the tortellini separate from the broth until just before serving so that the pasta stays pleasingly al dente.
- One 9-ounce package fresh tortellini (in the refrigerated section of the market)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for salting the pasta water
- 2 links fresh spicy Italian sausage, chicken, turkey, or pork; about ⅔ pound (you want the soft, uncooked link sausage, not the firm cooked kind)
- ¾ cup diced shallot (substitute yellow onion, if needed)
- 3 large cloves thinly sliced garlic
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 3 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped (about 4 packed cups)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Small chunk Parmesan cheese for grating
Fill a medium pot with water and add enough salt so it tastes like the sea. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook the tortellini according to package directions. Drain, toss lightly with olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking, and set aside.
While the pasta cooks, heat a large skillet over medium-high. Split the sausage casings lengthwise down the center and empty the meat into the skillet. Stir the sausage, breaking it into small pieces, until cooked through. Scoop the sausage out of the skillet and set aside.
The skillet should be lightly greased from the sausage. If not, add a few teaspoons of olive oil. Heat the pan over medium-high. Add the shallots and sauté until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Add the wine. It should bubble in the pan and then settle down to a simmer. Simmer for a minute or two and add the chicken broth. Adjust the heat so the broth comes to a simmer. Add the sausage back into the pan and stir in the kale. Simmer until the kale is tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and salt and stir well. Taste and add a pinch of red pepper flakes if you prefer it more spicy and add more salt, if needed. Remove from heat
Divide the tortellini among 4 to 5 shallow bowls. Spoon the sausage/kale/broth mixture over the tortellini. Drizzle each bowl with a teaspoon or two of olive oil, fresh cracked pepper, and a light shower of grated Parmesan.