3linksItalian sausage, the kind that is uncooked in casings - see note
4clovesgarlic, finely minced
4cupslow-sodium chicken broth
1 (15-ounce)candiced tomatoes
1 (8-ounce)cantomato sauce
2mediumzucchini, grated (no need to peel)
8-10 ouncepackagerefrigerated or frozen cheese tortellini
Remove the casings by slicing down one side of the sausage and peeling the casing back from the sausage. In a large pot, cook the sausage over medium heat until it starts to brown, using a wooden spoon to crumble as it cooks. Add the chopped onion and garlic. Continue cooking until the onions are translucent and the sausage is cooked through. Drain any excess grease, if needed (alternately, if your sausage is extra lean, you may need to add a drizzle of olive oil to keep it from sticking).
Stir in the chicken broth, apple cider, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, carrots, oregano, and basil. Bring the soup to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in zucchini and parsley simmer for 10-12 minutes. Add the tortellini and cook until tender (usually only a couple of minutes, even when the packages call for 7-9 minutes cooking time, I only cook the tortellini for 4-5 minutes so it doesn't fall apart). Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan, if desired.
Vegetables: if zucchini isn't in season, you could easily sub chopped spinach or frozen peas here. Apple Cider: if you absolutely can't find apple cider, try apple juice and in a last ditch effort, leave it out (although it does add a delicious hint of unique flavor). Sausage: even in my little town, I have been able to find Italian chicken sausage. It is lean, healthy and delicious. You want to look for sausage that is in a casing and is uncooked.