Culinary Literacy: January Recap

January was busy in the Culinary Literacy Center, opens a new window at Main Library! We simmered up a warm and comforting soup, shaped delicious cinnamon rolls, crafted hot cocoa bombs, explored the wonderful world of knife & fork toast, and celebrated National Popcorn Day with Mercy Health & the Stepping Out crew.

To help banish that winter chill, here’s a recipe for the Italian-style Pepperoni, Meatball, and Tortellini soup:


Ready In: 2hrs 25mins (see notes below) | Ingredients: 20 | Yields: 12 cups (approx)


1 lb tiny meatballs (frozen kind for wedding soup, thawed or make your own)
1 1⁄2 cups pepperoni, chopped
2 -4 tablespoons oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons minced fresh garlic (or to taste)
1 tablespoon dried chili pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 -2 teaspoon dried basil
1 -2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (10 ounce) can condensed tomato soup, undiluted
3 -5 cups chicken broth (use less amount of broth for a thicker soup)
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
1 (12 oz) package dried cheese tortellini
seasoning salt (or use white salt to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon sugar (optional or to taste)
grated parmesan cheese


1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; brown the thawed meatballs with pepperoni until browned (the meatballs do not have to cook completely) remove to a bowl.
2. Add in sliced mushrooms, onion, garlic, green bell pepper, chili flakes, basil and oregano; sauté for about 3-4 minutes.
3. Add in the tomato paste and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
4. Add in the undiluted soup, crushed tomatoes, chicken broth and chopped spinach, then add in the meatballs and pepperoni back to the pot; bring to a boil, season with seasoned salt, black pepper and sugar (if using).
5. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about 2 hours or less (uncover and simmer the last 30 minutes of cooking, the soup will thicken more if simmer uncovered for a longer time!).
6. During the last 30 min of cooking time, prepare the tortellini according to package directions. Undercook slightly, so that the tortellini is al dente.
7. Add in the cooked tortellini and simmer about 10 minutes more.
8. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese, garlic bread or crostini, and a big green salad on the side.

Speed this up: This isn’t the preferred way to do it but you can add about 6 oz dry tortellini into the soup directly after adding the meatballs and pepperoni. The tortellini will soak up liquid from the soup as it cooks, and the soup will get thicker much faster. This reduces the cooking/simmering time to 30 minutes or less. If you are using uncooked meatballs make sure that they are nearly cooked completely, since they will have less time to finish in the soup.

Freezing Instructions: You can freeze this soup without the pasta for up to six months. After thawing, cook fresh tortellini to add to the rewarmed soup and serve.

Recipe adapted from this recipe on, opens a new window

The Gourmet Toast was simply a pan-toasted piece of sourdough bread, whipped ricotta, blistered tomatoes and a poached egg. We finished it with a drizzle of quality extra virgin olive oil, basil and some balsamic glaze. People were interested in learning how to prepare and hold poached eggs in advance, which can be found at, opens a new window

You can expand on that and use up leftover roasted veggies in place of the blistered tomatoes. Or go the sweet route and use a thick slice of brioche and try grilled peaches or pineapples atop the ricotta.

Looking ahead to February, we’ll be getting ready for the Super Bowl but we're skipping the pizza delivery by learning how to make the perfect pizza at home! We'll also be crafting a lattice pie crust, learning the secrets of the Universal Muffin Recipe, celebrating National Cook a Sweet Potato Day with Jessica Romeo from Mercy Health, and enjoying banana bread with the fine folks at Stepping Out.

Additionally, for families with children ages 8 and up, we’ll be making DIY Valentine Pop Tarts—nothing says “I love you” quite like a fresh and warm pop tart from the oven.

Visit our events calendar, opens a new window to explore and register for all culinary literacy programs. Patrons can also register for programs by calling us at 330.744.8636.