Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sweet as Pie: Crockpot Cheese Tortellini

Over at Sweet as Pie this year, we've abandoned the cookbook and taken to the renegade road.  That's right, kids, we're not bound anymore!  Pinterest, Facebook, random Web sites, tv shows ... you name it, we cook from it!

Ahem.  For better or for worse, in some cases.

Fortunately, this month looks to be all good picks (yes, even though I am roughly 25 days behind in cooking most of them, my own included).  Sunday, we made a crockpot meal.

Here's the review.

Crockpot Cheese Tortellini from The Little Fellows blog

Verdict: Not bad!  A bit heavy on the cream cheese for my taste, though.
Cook it again:  Probably.
Cost Factor: $15-ish.  Canned tomatoes, cream cheese, tortellini, chicken broth, and spinach. And some sausage meat of your choice; we used Jimmy Dean.

First of all, I'm always game for a crockpot recipe.  I like the prep-it-and-forget-it approach.  Unfortunately a lot of the time, crockpot meals call for processed foods, and this one was a nice compromise -- some processed stuff, and some you can't really help.  (I've made my own ravioli and loved it, and I am not opposed to making my own tortellini -- in fact, I'd love to.  Just not lately.)

You start out by browning the sausage.  Mick and I have taken lately to doing a lot of our grocery shopping at BJ's wholesale club, so he bought a 2-pound package of Jimmy Dean sausage.  We cut it in half (the other half will go in chili tomorrow --I'll let you know how that goes!) and crumbled and browned one pound.

Then, to our crockpot we added:
  • the sausage, drained
  • one 19-oz package of frozen cheese tortellini
  • one brick of cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • one carton (32 oz) of chicken broth
  • 2 15-oz cans of diced Italian-style tomatoes
  • a bag of baby spinach

When it's all piled in (well, minus the spinach and cream cheese), it looks like this:

 And we let it go on low for about 6 hours, until it looks like this:

Served with a super-fancy Pillsbury Grands! super flaky, only moderately overdone biscuit. 

So, why am I not jumping up and down about this?  Truly, it wasn't bad and it was certainly hearty -- but there are a few things I would change if I made it again.  First, it was too cream-cheesy for me.  I love a good bagel with all the cream cheese you can schmear all over it, but in this recipe the cream cheese wasn't really disguised enough.  I felt like I was eating cream cheese.  With a tortellini dish, I didn't think that was necessary -- or quite the texture/taste I wanted for a dinner.  If the goal is thickness in the resulting sauce, I'd rather just put in good, old-fashioned, heavy cream.

Second, the tortellini was way overcooked.  And I mean, waaaaaaay overcooked.  The original blogger said to watch for it and maybe stop cooking sooner, but that would have meant stopping after an hour.  It took the full six hours for the cream cheese to get to the right melty gooey creamy consistency (and even at that, we had to crack the lid of the crockpot the last hour to get it to thicken with the broth), and the tortellini was more overcooked mush than even the worst knock-off Chef Boyardee. 

So, would I cook it again?  Probably, but with some serious tweaking --

I'd skip the cream cheese and go with heavy cream.  I'd up the sausage and spinach, and probably even add a few red pepper flakes for a little heat, and then I would not add the tortellini until the last hour or so.

It was tasty, don't get me wrong, and very filling, and good enough that we ate it again as leftovers last night.  I'm not bashing it -- it just didn't quite live up to expectations.

Sigh.  That makes two blog/Pinterest recipes this week, both of which were touted as the "best ever," and both of which fell kind-of flat for such a superlative.

Oh well!  That's the point of the cooking club, and now I have yet another idea up my sleeve!


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