The Comforting 3-Ingredient, 10-Minute Soup I Make All Winter Long

Keep this simple trio of ingredients on hand for a nourishing, nearly effortless version of tortellini en brodo that’s ready in minutes.

three-ingredient tortellini soup

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

At the end of a long day, taking inventory of the fridge, cracking a cookbook open, or running out to the grocery store in order to figure out a dinner plan can seem overwhelming. It’s all too tempting to just peruse a stack of takeout menus or food delivery apps instead.

But cooking at home can actually be so much quicker and easier (not to mention cheaper and often healthier) than ordering in. The key is having at least one recipe in your culinary back pocket that’s so dead-simple, it can be made on autopilot using just a few simple ingredients that come together with minimal effort, cook time, or dirty dishes to deal with afterwards.

For me, that near-effortless dish is a version of tortellini en brodo—a stuffed pasta "in broth" that’s traditionally served in northern Italy at Christmas. Made with just three ingredients—tortellini, broth, and (at least in my version) spinach or other greens—this warming winter dish cooks up in minutes. It only requires one pot, and there’s zero prep, meaning you don’t even need to dirty a cutting board or knife.

I always have the simple trio of ingredients required to make it on hand in my freezer. Then, on the nights I think I’m too tired to muster the energy to cook, I remember that I’ve got everything I need to throw together this nourishing, healthy-ish dish in about 10 minutes. Since it’s simply heating up three ingredients and requires no chopping, measuring, or timer, it doesn’t feel like the effort of home cooking…even though it tastes like it.

Here’s how dead-simple it is to make: Just bring chicken stock to a boil, add some cheese tortellini, and cook until the pasta floats to the top of the pot and looks pillowy. When the pasta is just about done, add some chopped spinach, cook and stir for a minute or two until it’s wilted, and finish with salt and pepper to taste. That’s it. 

This no-recipe-needed dish is perfect lunch or dinner as-is, but I also love that it’s endlessly adaptable. Use whatever type of stock, tortellini, and greens you happen to have on hand. When it’s ready, drizzle in some olive or truffle oil, sprinkle on some Parmesan, add some leaves of fresh parsley, basil, or dill. It’s also a great way to use up odds and ends in your fridge like leftover veggies that reheat quickly in the broth.

The best part is, dinner will be on the table in a fraction of the time it would take to get anything delivered—and at a fraction of the cost, too.


In addition to the pantry staples of salt and pepper, you only need three inexpensive, easy-to-find ingredients for this dish.

  • Tortellini: Use fresh or frozen tortellini. I use cheese-filled pasta because I think it tastes best with the broth and greens, but meat, vegetable, or other varieties will be delicious, too. Of course using frozen pasta means it will take a little longer to cook, but the time difference is pretty negligible. Plus, I like the convenience of frozen since I can always have it on hand without worrying about it going bad like I would with fresh types.
  • Broth: I prefer the comforting flavor of chicken broth, but you can swap in vegetable or beef broth. Since this three-ingredient dish is so simple, it’s ideal to use homemade stock or high-quality broth, but I often use boxed broth or condensed bouillon paste or cubes instead. Whatever you’ve got in your freezer, fridge, or pantry will taste delicious. 
  • Greens: Delicate greens like mild spinach or peppery arugula work best since they wilt quickly in the hot broth. Opting for bite-sized greens like small spinach or arugula leaves (like the ones that come in clear plastic tubs at the grocery store) mean you don’t even have to dirty a cutting board or chef’s knife chopping them down to size. Fresh greens are nice, but I always keep a bag of chopped spinach in my freezer since it’s so inexpensive and versatile. Whatever option you go with, the greens add hits of color and vitamins to the dish, and make it feel more like a healthy-ish, complete meal.


  1. Choose a pot: Pick a pot that’s right for the quantity you want to make. You can use just enough stock to cook the pasta, or enough that it feels like a brothy soup, whichever you prefer. But either way, you want to make sure the size of your pot will allow the pasta to swim freely in the broth as they cook. Cooking for a crowd? Go with a Dutch oven or stock pot. Making just one serving? Go with a small saucepan. You want at least a few inches of stock in the pan so the pasta will be able to move freely and cook evenly as they simmer.
  2. Heat the stock: Bring the stock to a boil. 
  3. Cook the tortellini: Add the tortellini to the boiling liquid, and stir for a minute to keep the pasta separated and to prevent sticking. When the tortellini float to the top and look puffy and pillowy, they’re fully cooked. (If you’re not feeling confident that you’ll know by sight when the pasta is done, just cook them according to timing on the package instructions.)
  4. Add the greens: As soon as the tortellini are ready, add the greens to the pot, and stir. As soon as the broth returns to a simmer, turn off the heat. This may be just seconds if you’re using fresh greens, or about a minute if you’re using frozen.
  5. Add salt and pepper: Season to taste.


Another great thing about this recipe is how adaptable it is. Not only is it delicious with whatever types of broth, tortellini, and greens you want, but there are also so many ways to zhuzh it up with other common fridge or pantry staples.

  • Add more cheese, like Parmesan, pecorino-Romano, or any other hard cheese that’s good for grating.
  • Fresh or dried herbs: basil, parsley, oregano, or dill
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Additional veggies, like frozen peas or diced zucchini (add them to the broth along with the greens)
  • Lemon zest, or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Truffle oil or truffle salt
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