Over the years, I've gotten myself into a tortellini rut. I love tortellini — the beautiful little pockets of prepared pasta filled with cheese on which I sometimes splurge, found in the refrigerator section at the grocery store. Filled pasta is intimidating to make at home for most of us (myself included), so it has this weird power to elevate a dish, transforming your everyday bowl of soup or plate of pasta into something more than it was before.
Tortellini is a great shortcut, too. It's the foundation of a speedy and satisfying weeknight meal, as the pasta only takes about five minutes to cook in boiling water. But I only ever made one thing with my pretty little tortellini. One thing since 2011: tortellini soup. Over the years, that brothy bowl of soup has shown up on my dinner table and as leftovers for lunch the next day way more times than I like to admit.
This week, I broke the seven-year cycle and made something else. Something still quick, still suitable for a busy school night. I made a creamy tomato sauce with Italian sausage to accompany the tortellini. I wilted spinach into the sauce right at the end for some freshness and green, but fresh basil would be excellent as well. This tortellini was devoured and we found ourselves sopping up any leftover sauce with a loaf of Italian bread.
Creamy tomato tortellini with Italian sausage
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1/4 cup white wine
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup half and half
2 cups fresh spinach
9-12 ounces cheese tortellini
Set a pot of salted water to boil. Prepare the tortellini according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onions until translucent and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cooking another 1 minute. Add the Italian sausage to the pan and cook until brown, breaking it up with a spatula as you go. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, allowing the wine to simmer for 1 minute. Pour in the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir together and bring the sauce to a simmer. Season with salt as needed to taste.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the half and half and spinach, until the spinach is wilted and the cream is well incorporated into the sauce. Fold in the cooked tortellini. Serve in pasta bowls.
Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your inquiry may appear in a future column.