Side Orders: This tortellini skillet is easy, cheesy

Sometimes it's the simplest of dishes that becomes a family favorite. Case in point: This tortellini dinner that's a bowlful of comfort, much like many skillet meals. I love making a meal that my family can get excited about as the smells draw them into the kitchen.

I made this when the kids and grandkids were home during the Christmas holiday, doubling the recipe and cooking it in my much-used 12-inch Lodge cast-iron skillet, and it was a hit with, unfortunately, no leftovers.

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I wish I could say I made my own marinara sauce, simmering it for hours to bring out its deep rich flavors, but no. I did, though, use a jar of Rao's, which is considered the top brand readily available in most all Chattanooga markets. I think it makes a difference and is worth the extra pennies over a generic store brand.

Also, if you can get your hands on some fresh basil or have some growing in your kitchen window, sprinkle it on as a garnish and get a taste of summer.

(READ MORE: Aldi's tomato-basil goat cheese simplifies tomato pie)

The dish freezes well. So the next time you're thinking spaghetti for dinner, change course and try making this Cheese Tortellini Skillet. Your family will thank you.

Cheese Tortellini Skillet

1 pound ground beef

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 garlic cloves, minced

28 ounces marinara sauce, store-bought or homemade

12 ounces cheese tortellini, cooked

1 1/2 cups fresh mozzarella

Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat, and brown the ground beef. Season it with a big pinch of salt, pepper, basil, oregano and minced garlic. If I use beef, I rarely use oil or butter because the fat cooks out. If you use a very lean cut of meat, you can drizzle the pan with olive oil as needed. Break the meat apart until it is in small crumbles and browned.

Stir in the marinara sauce, and reduce the heat to low. Cook the tortellini for 3 or 4 minutes (according to the package directions) and immediately drain it, then add it to the meat sauce. Gently stir with a spatula to incorporate the tortellini without breaking it.

Tear apart the fresh mozzarella, and sprinkle it over the beef and tortellini.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbly and cheesy. Sprinkle with parmesan and fresh basil to serve.


Mardi Gras is just around the corner -- Feb. 13, to be exact -- and Ruby Sunshine, a brunch restaurant at 405 Market St., celebrates Fat Tuesday through mid-February with several seasonal specials on its menu. So "laissez le bon temps rouler" with:

— Mardi Gras Beignets with cinnamon-orange cheesecake and Crofter's organic strawberry preserves. This over-the-top beignet is topped with whipped cream and Mardi Gras sugar crystals.

— King Cake French Toast stuffed with cinnamon-orange cheesecake and Crofter's organic strawberry preserves. It's topped with cream cheese icing, Mardi Gras sugar crystals and whipped cream.

— Cajun Catfish Coubion is a filet of catfish fried and served with poached eggs served over corn maque choux and golden tater hash cakes, then finished with Creole tomato sauce.

— Queen Cake Pancakes are served with cinnamon and sugar layered with almond créme and finished with whipped cream, almond brittle and Mardi Gras sugar crystals.

And to add to the Carnival celebration, sip on drink specials including a Mambo gin-based cocktail with lavender syrup, lime, sparkling wine and a twist of lemon.

Or try the Blueberry Margarita with tequila, macerated blueberries, blueberry juice and house sour mix garnished with a rim of Mardi Gras salt and lime.

Contact Anne Braly at or



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