Tortellini and Vegetable Soup. Photo for The Washington Post by Laura Chase de Formigny

Lately, I’ve been craving two things, which seem to be diametrically opposed but manage to come together in this soup: familiar comfort and an element of surprise.

The base of it is like the minestrone, which is such a staple for me I could, as they say, make it with my eyes closed. Onion, carrot and celery are softened in a gloss of olive oil, then diced zucchini (you could sub in red bell pepper) and garlic are stirred in, along with dried basil and oregano, followed by canned tomatoes and chicken (or vegetable) broth. It all simmers until the ingredients meld and the vegetables soften in the savory liquid.

The wafting aroma of it is so reassuringly familiar, it’s like someone whispering in my ear, “It’s all going to be OK.”

Normally, to finish the minestrone, I’d next add beans and elbow macaroni, but here, I instead go for that element of surprise in the form of fresh tortellini. The belly-button-shaped, cheese-stuffed pasta (you could use any type of tortellini, really) is an unexpected twist that wakes me from my culinary trance and gives the soup hearty substance.

Finished with a handful of fresh spinach (I’m always looking for ways to add more vegetables) and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, it’s a nourishing bowl that dishes up familiar comfort with an eye-opening appeal.

Tortellini Vegetable Soup

30 minutes, 6 servings

Storage Notes: The soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion (about 6 ounces), diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 medium carrot, diced

1 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 teaspoon dried basil

3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

One (14-ounce) can no-salt-added petite diced tomatoes, with juices

4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups water

One (9-ounce) package fresh store-bought cheese tortellini

3 cups (2 ounces) lightly packed baby spinach, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese


In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the tomatoes, the broth and 2 cups water and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the tortellini, return the broth to a boil, then cook, uncovered, 1 minute less than the directions on the package indicate; the tortellini should rise and float. Stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted, 1 minute more. Taste, and season to taste with more salt, if desired.

Ladle into 4 bowls, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve hot.

Calories: 226; Total Fat: 8 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 22 mg; Sodium: 512 mg; Carbohydrates: 32 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugars: 4 g; Protein: 13 g.

Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author who hosts public television’s “Ellie’s Real Good Food.”

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