After the Thanksgiving turkey has been enjoyed, use the leftovers to make this easy Turkey Tortellini Soup recipe. With a rich broth and a bright shot of lemon, this isn’t your ordinary leftover turkey soup.
One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers —that and time spent with family and friends, the football and the card games (Tripoley, anyone?). And this year with the leftovers from our brined roast turkey breast, I’m making Turkey Tortellini Soup. It’s a big dose of comfort food that comes together in under 30 minutes leaving you plenty of time for all the board games, football and family you can handle.
And let’s face it - we all have our limits with some of those. I’ll never admit which.
Let’s make some leftover turkey soup.
LIke with any broth-based soup, you always have options.
Homemade turkey stock. To make homemade turkey stock from the turkey carcass:
- Place the turkey carcass and a bundle of your favorite herbs (thyme, sage, Italian parsley), a few washed, unpeeled carrots, peeled and quartered yellow onion in a large stockpot. Add ¼ cup of whole peppercorns Pour in just enough cold water to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil and let simmer for a couple of hours. Strain and when cool, refrigerate overnight. Remove the fat (it won’t be too much) that rises to the top to reveal the luscious turkey stock below.
Premade turkey stock. Use your favorite brand of turkey stock - here are some I love.
Best pasta for soup
For this Thanksgiving turkey soup, we are using cheese tortellini because it’s a great counterbalance to the turkey and the spiciness added from Italian sausage. The best kind of tortellini for soup is frozen because it doesn’t take a long time to cook so it can’t expand too much in the broth.
And there’s a little trick to keep the pasta from growing too much.
How to stop pasta from absorbing soup
Here are some tips to guarantee the pasta will not get mushy in the soup:
- Pre-cook the pasta to a little less than al dente (btw which means to the tooth). For the tortellini (I looove the cheese tortellini from Perfect Pasta), I cooked it for about 2 minutes and then added it to the soup right at the end before serving. It finishes cooking in the broth and doesn’t absorb more broth as it cools.
- If using pasta other than tortellini, you can alway cook it just to al dente which is a minute or so less than directed on the package.
- Add only as much pasta as you need to each individual bowl right before serving.
- Cook up some sausage and sage in a skillet over medium heat until browned evenly. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
- Add chopped onions and spices to the skillet with a little more olive oil, if needed. Cook the onion for about 5 minutes or until golden and then add the garlic right at the end.
- To this, add the tomato paste and swirl around to caramelize.
- Add the turkey stock and cook for about 15 minutes or so to meld all the flavors together.
- Right at the end, add some diced leftover turkey (skin removed), the cooked sausage, tortellini, handfuls of fresh spinach and two big squeezes of lemon.
Oh and parmesan. We can’t forget the cheese.
Creamy turkey soup
If you’re a creamy turkey soup fan, feel free to add ½ cup of heavy cream when you add the stock. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste as well.
Variations + serving suggestions
- Add your favorite veggies to the soup like carrots, leftover roasted butternut squash or corn.
- Use spicy Italian sausage if you like to shake things up a bit!
- Serve Italian Focaccia Bread or whip up my Stovetop Veggie Sandwich for easy weeknight meal.
Storage. Refrigerate any leftovers for up to three days.
Freezer. Leftover turkey soup can be frozen.
What to make with leftover turkey
Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas - one of our favorite ways to use the leftover Thanksgiving turkey.
Crispy Beef Burritos -use turkey instead!
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Wild Rice and Pancetta -leftover turkey would be so good in these!
Turkey Tortellini Soup
- 12 oz bag frozen cheese tortellini, I use Perfect Pasta
- ½ whole cooked turkey breast, skin removed & shredded or diced [see below for easy recipe, if needed]
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2-3 links of Italian sausage or ½ lb bulk sausage, cases removed
- ½ teaspoon dried sage
- ½ onion, finely chopped, about ½ cup
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 quarts turkey stock
- 8 oz fresh baby spinach
- ½ lemon, juiced
- grated Parmesan cheese
- Cook the tortellini in salted, boiling water for half the time according to the package directions (approximately 2 minutes). Drain in a colander and set aside.
- Heat a 4 qt. soup or saucepan and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the sausage and sage. Cook until no longer pink about 8 minutes, crumbling while cooking with a spatula or wooden spoon. Remove from pan to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
- In the same skillet, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and add the chopped onion. Saute for about 5 minutes until lightly golden. Add the garlic at the end and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add the tomato paste to the soup pan and swirl around in the pan until caramelized about 1-2 minutes.
- To the soup pan, add the turkey stock. Stir the soup and allow it to come to a very low boil, cooking for 15 minutes total.
- Add turkey, reserved sausage, tortellini and spinach to the soup during the last 2-3 minutes of cooking. Stir until the spinach has wilted and the tortellini is cooked. Taste for seasoning adding the additional teaspoon of salt if needed.
- Squeeze the lemon into the soup (minus the seeds!). Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.