I’m on a mission and that mission is to increase my vegetable intake. I was really craving pasta the other day, so I set out to create some sort of pasta and vegetable dish. I took a note from the freezer aisle and tried to create a homemade version of some of those creamy style pasta and vegetable skillet meals. I used mostly fresh vegetables, which accounts for most of the “hard work” in this recipe, but I made up for that by using my favorite quick substitute for cream sauce. I simply melted some cream cheese into the hot liquid already in the pot. This is the same technique used to make the deliciously Creamy Tomato & Spinach Pasta. It’s not a fancy alfredo sauce, but it gives me that creamy goodness that I’m after with no fuss.
If you don’t want to chop and sauté fresh vegetables, a frozen vegetable mix can be used in a pinch. Just remember, frozen vegetables are already partially cooked (blanched), so you won’t need to sauté them past just heating them through. You want the vegetables to still be partially crisp for this dish, so you get that air of freshness. Overcooked or mushy vegetables are a no-go.
If you can’t find frozen tortellini at your grocery store, you can use penne pasta or some other shape in its place. You’ll need to cook the pasta separately before adding it to the pot and you may want to add a touch more cheese to make up for the tortellini filling. A little extra Parm, some shredded Monterrey Jack, or even pepper jack if you like things spicy! Woot!
Creamy Tortellini with Vegetables
- 1 Tbsp butter ($0.13)
- 1 small onion ($0.31)
- 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
- 2 carrots ($0.28)
- 1 red bell pepper ($1.68)
- 1 summer squash (yellow squash) ($0.74)
- 1 cup chicken broth ($0.12)
- 4 oz. cream cheese ($1.19)
- 1 19 oz. bag frozen cheese tortellini ($2.87)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan ($0.41)
- 1/4 tsp salt or to taste ($0.02)
- Freshly cracked black pepper ($0.05)
- Dash hot sauce, optional ($0.02)
- 1/4 lb. frozen broccoli florets ($0.37)
- Take the broccoli out of the freezer and let it begin to thaw. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Begin to sauté the onion and garlic in a large pot with butter over medium-low heat.
- While the onion and garlic are cooking, peel and cut the carrots into half rounds. Add the carrots to the pot and continue to sauté. Dice the red pepper and add it to the pot. Finally, cut the squash into quarter rounds and add it to the pot as well. Continue to sauté the ingredients in the pot just until the squash begins to soften.
- Add the chicken broth to the pot and turn the heat up to medium. Cut the cream cheese into small pieces, and add it to the pot. Stir and cook the vegetables, broth, and cream cheese until the cream cheese is melted in and the sauce is smooth. Let the sauce come up to a simmer.
- Add the frozen tortellini directly to the pot (frozen tortellini is precooked and only needs to be heated through). Let the sauce come back up to a simmer after adding the tortellini, then simmer until the tortellini is tender and heated through (about 5 minutes). The sauce should thicken some while simmering.
- While the tortellini is simmering, cut the broccoli florets into smaller pieces. Finally, season the tortellini and cream sauce with 1/4 cup grated parmesan, some freshly cracked pepper, about 1/4 tsp of salt, and a dash of hot sauce (if you like hot sauce). Stir the ingredients in, taste, and adjust the seasoning if needed. The Parmesan will further thicken the sauce as it melts in.
- Finally, to keep the broccoli vibrant green in color, add the florets to the pot and cook just long enough to heat through (3-5 minutes). Serve hot.
Creamy Tortellini with Vegetables
Step by Step Photos
For this recipe, I used 2 cloves garlic, one small onion, two carrots, one small summer squash, a red bell pepper, and about 1/4 pound of frozen broccoli florets (just eyeball 1/4 of a one pound bag). Take the broccoli out of the freezer in the beginning, so it can start to thaw.
For the most part, you want the vegetables to stay fairly crisp for this recipe, the exception being the onion and garlic. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Begin to sauté them in one tablespoon of butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. While they are sautéing, cut the carrot into half rounds. Because the carrot is the hardest of all the vegetables, it can withstand the longest cooking time and can go in the pot first.
Follow that up with the next hardest (or least likely to become mushy) vegetable, the red bell pepper. Dice it and toss it in the pot. Continue to sauté.
Finally, slice the squash into half or quarter rounds and toss it in. Sauté only for a couple minutes longer, or until the squash just begins to soften. It will continue to cook during the next steps.
Add one cup of chicken (or vegetable) broth. Turn the heat up to medium and let it come to a simmer.
Cut 4 oz. (half of an 8oz. package) of cream cheese into smaller pieces and stir them into the broth. Continue to stir until the cream cheese has melted in and it forms a smooth sauce. It may seem watery for now, but it will thicken.
I used one 19oz. package of frozen cheese tortellini. Frozen tortellini like this is precooked, so all it needs is a brief simmer (like 5 minutes) in hot water to heat through and it’s good to go. In this case, we’re going to let it simmer in our cream cheese sauce.
Add the frozen tortellini to the pot, give it a good stir, then let it come up to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the tortellini is tender and heated through. Stir it a few times while simmering to make sure the tortellini gets even exposure to the heat and sauce. The tortellini will absorb a little of the moisture from the sauce, thickening it up some.
Finally, it’s time to season the sauce. Add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, some freshly cracked pepper, about 1/4 tsp salt, and a dash of hot sauce (optional). Stir the pot until the Parmesan is melted in (this will further thicken the sauce). Taste the pasta and sauce and add more seasoning if desired. If the sauce is still to “thin”, let it simmer a couple minutes so it can reduce.
Finally, it’s safe to add the broccoli. Because broccoli turns an ugly shade of olive green when it’s over cooked, I avoided adding it until the very last step. Frozen broccoli is blanched before freezing, so it’s already slightly cooked and more tender than raw. Cut the broccoli florets into smaller, bite-sized pieces.
Stir the broccoli florets into the pasta and let it heat through (just a couple minutes). And you’re ready to eat!
This recipe made between 7-8 cups for me, but it will depend on the size of your vegetables. It’s pretty hearty, but if it’s your main (and only) dish, you’ll get about 4 servings of nearly 2 cups each. NOM.
Oooh, look at that creamy goodness.