Put your instant pot to work on this dreamy creamy tomato tortellini soup for a cozy and comforting dinner that is sure to hit the spot. The subtle addition of red lentils add texture and nutrition, and the optional fresh spinach serves as your “something green” to round this out to a nourishing meal.
One of my favorite recipes on here is my lentil tortellini soup, and this is a slightly pared down version for the instant pot which is a little simpler, more budget friendly, and it plays to the strengths of the instant pot – while still keeping what I love about the original!
If I’m making a meal in my instant pot I really like to take advantage of its ability to cook beans and legumes quickly, so the addition of red lentils here makes me happy. I would almost consider them hidden lentils – they cook down so much, the effect is very subtle and it’s just giving us a little added texture and creaminess to the soup. We still have dairy cream, but we probably got away with using less than we otherwise may have.
Why use the instant pot for this tortellini soup?
I will be honest that it is not a huge time saver. Instant pots save a ton of time for beans, not so much for lentils. You could make the same recipe on the stovetop in the same time it takes to have the pot come to pressure, pressure cook and then release.
So is there a point? YES. Having cooked the soup at a much higher temperature that the stovetop, the instant pot can give us a far superior result. The lentils and chopped tomatoes have really broken down and made a beautifully creamy base. The vegetables melt in the mouth and the flavors are well developed.
And then of course there are the lifestyle factors such as the ability to walk away from the pot, and energy savings, that draw so many of us to instant pot cooking.
There is a lot of flexibility with this recipe, and there are ways to keep it more budget friendly too:
- Tortellini or Tortelloni: I use fresh tortelloni, the kind sold in the refrigerator section, which takes 2-3 minutes to cook. Any fresh pasta such as ravioli will slot in just fine here. If you’re on a budget, the Aldi tortellini is shockingly inexpensive and very tasty. (Side note: if you’re wondering what the difference is between tortellini and tortelloni, it’s that tortelloni is supposed to be larger but realistically I see the terms get a little mixed up in supermarkets where I live.)
- Red lentils, vegetable stock and cream: these work together to make the base of the soup and the ratios given are, for me, just about right. If you don’t use lentils, reduce the vegetable stock by around 1.5 cups or the result will be far too watery. If you want to try brown or green lentils, go ahead, just note that the cook time will be the same but the texture and color will be different.
- Onions, garlic and carrot: are our vegetables of choice. I felt like these three were sort of the minimum, and I didn’t want my soup too full of “stuff”, but you could certainly add extras such as celery or bell pepper if you choose.
- Dried herbs and spices: A mixed Italian herb blend, smoked paprika, sage and fennel seeds. These are the sort of spices you get in Italian sausage so I feel like they just fit in well here. The amounts in the recipe are about right for a subtle result but you could use more if you’re craving something more deeply flavored.
- Spinach: can easily be swapped for kale or frozen spinach.
- Fresh basil: a nice addition but if it’s the wrong time of year I wouldn’t worry about it, it’s not a deal breaker.
- Parmesan style cheese: Real parmesan is a problematic ingredient for vegetarians due to the use of animal rennet, so I use a parmesan style hard cheese. Pre shredded cheese won’t melt into the soup in the same way so if you don’t have a block of parmesan / parmesan style cheese to use, I’d use cheddar or any other available cheese instead. You may just need more salt to account for the lighter flavor.
- Salt: I add two teaspoons of salt to this soup; with the lentils in the mix, I do find that it’s needed. If you feel like your broth is salty enough you could reduce this, but it may be a little bland without it.
Serving Suggestions & Storage
- I like to serve this alongside some garlic bread, though any crusty bread will do nicely.
- The recipe makes 4-6 servings, depending on size, and it freezes and reheats well. The tortellini will always be a little softer than ideal after reheating, but it’s fine.
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Instant Pot Tortellini Soup
- 1 onion (any color) , chopped
- 1 tbsp mixed Italian herbs
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp dried sage
- 28 oz (800 g) canned chopped tomatoes, in juices
- ¾ cup (135 g) dried red lentils
- 6 cups (1.4 l) vegetable stock , see notes
- 2 tsp salt
- ⅔ cup (70 g) parmesan cheese, + more for topping
- ¾ cups (180 ml) double cream
- 10-12 oz (300 g) package of tortellini, see notes
- 1 bunch fresh basil leaves
- 2-3 cups (60-90 g) baby spinach leaves
- Set your instant pot to the SAUTE function at a medium heat. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in the pot and then add your onions and carrots, and saute until the onion is softening.
- CANCEL the saute function (we can just use the residual heat at this point) and add the garlic and spices, cook until fragrant.
- Add the canned tomatoes, lentils, salt and vegetable stock. Give it a mix, making sure there is nothing sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Set the instant pot to PRESSURE COOK on HIGH, for 15 minutes. Once the pressure cycle is finished, do a QUICK RELEASE and put the pot on SAUTE.
- Add the tortellini and allow to simmer for a few minutes until cooked through.
- CANCEL the saute function (the residual heat will be enough from this point) and add the cheese and cream. Mix through until the cheese has melted in and you have a nice creamy soup base.
- Finally, add the spinach and fresh basil. Mix until they are starting to wilt.
- Serve. You may wish to add a little extra cheese, drops of cream and fresh basil as a topping.
- If using a stock cube, I don’t rehydrate this separately first, I just add the cube to the pot alongside hot water.
- Whether you use a cube, carton, or otherwise – if the liquid is hot, it will come to pressure much more quickly. My preferred method is therefore to add a stock cube and then add boiling water from the kettle.
- Package sizes for tortellini can vary. In supermarkets where I live, 300g (10.5oz) is about normal and I use one of those packages. A little more or less is fine. The soup is flexible and could handle a bit more or a bit less.
- I use the fresh tortellini which cooks in 2-3 minutes. If yours is frozen, it will take a little longer but you can figure that out. If yours is dried – the kind that takes 8 or more minutes to cook – you may end up wanting to add a little extra water because it will soak up a bunch of liquid. You’ll need to just keep an eye on that and adjust to taste.
- Choose whatever flavor you like! I am a fan of four cheese or spinach and ricotta.