White Bean and Tortellini Soup with Grilled Brie and Apple Sandwiches

If that title alone doesn’t make you drool a little, I don’t know what will. When I was at my parents’ home in Nashville over the holidays, I went through all of my mom’s recipes, looking for my Italian grandmother’s recipe for spaghetti sauce and meatballs. Sadly, I never found that BUT I did find a bunch of other great recipes that I am in the process of trying. After a holiday full of heavy eating and wayyyyy too many cookies, J and I were ready to start the year with lighter foods. This Italian soup seemed like a great way to start the new year… the tortellini gives it a bit more substance but it’s full of healthy veggies and has a light broth that won’t weigh you down. Plus it is super easy to prepare. I paired it with a grilled brie and apple sandwich, inspired by one I ate at Fido, my favorite Nashville coffee shop (who also serves an amazing menu from breakfast to dinner every day). When J went back for seconds on the soup and then warmed up more for lunch the next day, I knew it was a hit.

A few notes: This recipe calls for Swiss chard and pancetta. If you are anything like me, you panic a little when you see a “fancy” ingredient that you’ve never heard of before. Swiss chard is just a type of green… it looks a lot like a giant green leaf lettuce, only with AMAZING colors in the stalk. Mine was red but I googled it and it looks like it grows in all sorts of colors- yellow, red, green, pink. And lucky for you, you can find it at any grocer.

Pancetta is a type of Italian bacon. You can find this at most grocery delis, although I found it already chopped and ready to go in a pre-packaged container at Trader Joe’s. Also, the sandwich calls for granny smith apples but really any crispy apple will do just fine. Enjoy!

White Bean, Pancetta and Tortellini Soup
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4 oz pancetta, chopped
2 large shallots, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped (I used a handful of baby carrots)
1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 C (1 bunch) Swiss chard
5 C chicken broth
1 (9 oz) package cheese tortellini
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

In a large pot, heat olive oil, add the next 3 ingredients (pancetta, shallots, carrot) and cook until pancetta is crisp but not burned, about 5 minutes. Add beans, Swiss chard and broth to pot. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the tortellini and cook about 5 minutes or until tortellini is tender. Season with black pepper and serve immediately.

Grilled Brie and Apple Sandwiches
Ingredients: (for 2 sandwiches)
4 slices sourdough bread
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 wedge Brie cheese (usually found in the specialty section of the grocery store by the deli)
1 Granny Smith apple, sliced very thin, with peel still on
2 T apricot preserves

To prepare, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Brush outside of the bread lightly with the extra virgin olive oil. Between each of the two slices, layer 1 T apricot preserves, spread evenly, a couple thin slices of Brie, several apple slices, followed by a few more slices of Brie (to hold the sandwich together). Grill in the skillet a few minutes on each side, until lightly golden and brie has started to melt. Serve hot.


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