Mary Anne's Hearty Italian Tortellini Soup

      The nights are turning cooler and this rustic Italian soup will soon become one of your family's favorites! This hearty soup is even tastier the next day.

      1 package (regular or turkey) Italian sausage links (4 ounces each), casings removed


      1 package bulk (regular or turkey) Italian sausage

      1 medium onion, diced

      6 garlic cloves, minced

      2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth

      1 3/4 cups water

      1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained

      1 package (9 ounces) frozen cheese tortellini

      1 package (6 ounces) fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped

      2 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh basil


      3/4 teaspoon dried basil

      1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

      Dash crushed red pepper flakes or dash cayenne pepper

      Shredded Parmesan cheese, optional

      • Crumble sausage into a large soup pot or stovetop Dutch oven. Add diced onion. Cook and stir over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain grease and rinse sausage to remove excess grease. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute longer. Stir in the chicken broth, water and diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer.
      • Add tortellini or pasta. Return to a simmer. Cook for 7-9 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Turn down heat and add spinach, basil, black pepper and pepper flakes. Simmer 2-3 minutes longer or until spinach is wilted. Serve with cheese if desired.

      Makes 6 servings.

      Note: Serve with crusty Italian garlic bread and green salad. You can substitute bowtie pasta for the cheese tortellini.