Community Cooks: Atlanta restaurant founder ladles 20 years of soups in new cookbook

Sausage, Kale & Tortellini Soup
Courtesy of Joel Silverman/Sky Chief Media

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Sausage, Kale & Tortellini Soup Courtesy of Joel Silverman/Sky Chief Media

Known as Souper Jenny, also the name of her chain of soup and salad restaurants, Jenny Levison identifies herself as an “entrepreneur, actress and philanthropist.”

A proud native Atlantan, Levison opened her first restaurant 21 years ago, with “only two employees and $10,000 from a short-lived hand-modeling career.”

Currently, she owns and operates five Souper Jenny locations around metro Atlanta, and she’s set to open a prepared food shop in Seagrove, Florida, later this year.

“We’ve struggled a bit over the last two years,” Levison said. “But, fortunately, we had a takeout model to begin with, so that helped.”

The self-proclaimed “soup diva” also has released her fourth cookbook, “Souper Jenny 20 Years of Soups” ($30), which is available at all her restaurants, and at souperjennyatl.com/shop.

“The book really came out of my collecting recipes for the last 20-plus years,” Levison said. “I opened my first place after an 18-month trip around the world, collecting and learning how to cook.”

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The cookbook features 50 Souper Jenny favorites, with easy recipes aimed at home cooks, including her all-time top-seller, My Dad’s Turkey Chili.

“My dad was always the big cook in my family,” Levison recalled. “When I said I was going into the soup business, I remember him giving me that chili recipe, so that was the first soup I cooked on a large scale. Now, our menu changes every day, except we always have turkey chili.”

For winter, Levison favors her Italian-style sausage, kale and cheese-stuffed tortellini soup, which, she claimed, “has magical powers when eaten on a cold, blustery day.”

“I really love one-pot meals, and that one, with a salad, is all you need,” she said. “But, you can switch it up. If you’re not eating pasta, you can leave the tortellini out and add a couple more handfuls of veggies. And, if you’re not eating sausage, you can add ground turkey or tofu crumbles.”

ExploreRecipes: Souped up for the holidays
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Jenny Levison of Souper Jenny with her dog Ada. Courtesy of Alli Royce Soble

Credit: Alli Royce Soble

Jenny Levison of Souper Jenny with her dog Ada.
Courtesy of Alli Royce Soble

Credit: Alli Royce Soble

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Jenny Levison of Souper Jenny with her dog Ada. Courtesy of Alli Royce Soble

Credit: Alli Royce Soble

Credit: Alli Royce Soble

Sausage, Kale and Cheese-Stuffed Tortellini Soup
  • 2 pounds ground Italian sausage
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, off stem, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups Yukon gold potato, chopped
  • 2 cups canned, chopped tomato
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)1 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)1 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups fresh kale, chopped
  • 4 cups cheese-stuffed tortellini
  • ½ cup aged parmesan, grated
  • Heat a soup pot on medium high. Break up the sausage and cook it thoroughly, around 10 minutes. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add olive oil, and sauté onion, rosemary and oregano for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic and stir another minute. Add the sausage back to the pot. Add carrot, tomato, potato, kale, chili flakes and chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Add the tortellini, and cook an additional 8 to 10 minutes on low. Serve topped with shredded parmesan. Serves 12.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 413 calories (percent of calories from fat, 52), 19 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 24 grams total fat (9 grams saturated), 74 milligrams cholesterol, 1,516 milligrams sodium.
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