I mentioned yesterday that I’d be making this new-to-me recipe and I’m happy to report back that we enjoyed it quite a bit!
This recipe makes A LOT of soup so we will be having it for dinner again as planned…and I will probably also eat it for lunch. Normally that would seem like overkill, but it’s so chilly outside today and soup sounds perfect.
Many of the comments in the recipe mention having an issue with the cream cheese curdling and I am almost 100% certain why this happened. I would be willing to bet the people who had this issue were trying to use low-fat or fat-free cream cheese. Guys? DON’T DO THIS.
Quite honestly I would tell people to never mess with low-fat or fat-free dairy, it is just not worth it. If you need to top your tacos with fat-free sour cream or spread some low-fat cream cheese on your bagel, that’s entirely up to you. In recipes, however, you are better off just reducing the amount of the dairy rather than substituting. I have been known to use a reduced-fat ricotta or part-skim mozzarella in lasagna, but if the recipe calls for 3 cups of mozzarella, you could also just get away with 2. Likewise, there is rarely a reason to add 8 ounces of cream cheese to a pot of soup, which is why I added just 4 ounces.
Taste (and weird fillers and additives) aside, the best reason to stick with full-fat dairy in dishes like soups is that those fillers and additives aren’t ever going to emulsify the way they should.
To further avoid the risk of full-fat cream cheese curdling/breaking/separating in this recipe, you can try the following:
- In a saucepan, slowly heat the tomato sauce and the cream cheese together, stirring often. Once fully combined, add to the Crock-Pot as directed in the recipe.
- Add the cream cheese as directed and stir or whisk once an hour or so (this is what I did, you’ll still end up with some bits of cream cheese that don’t fully emulsify but not many).
- Skip the cream cheese and add a small amount of half-and-half or heavy cream at the end of preparation, once you’ve taken the soup off the heat. I make a lot of recipes where 3/4 cup of cream or more is called for, and I add anywhere from a few tablespoons to 1/4 cup and it’s fine.
- Skip the addition of dairy altogether. If you want a thicker soup, make a slurry of cornstarch and water and add judiciously.
In addition to cutting the amount of cream cheese in half, I also subbed ground turkey for the ground beef, and used chicken broth rather than beef broth. I seasoned the turkey with salt and pepper during the browning and did not drain it (ground turkey is very lean) before adding to the Crock-Pot. I chose to use a 16-ounce bag of frozen cheese tortellini because it was half the cost of a 9-ounce package of fresh refrigerated. Next time, I’ll try a different brand – the one I used was fine (and provided the most bang for the buck), but I’d like to see if a different brand might be just a little bit better.