The Last Thing You Should Do Before Throwing Away Spent Lemons

published Apr 26, 2023
Kitchn Love Letters
Tortellini Soup with Lemon Peel Broth Recipe

Cheese tortellini and fresh veggies highlight the delicate flavor of the no-waste lemon peel broth in this comforting soup.

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Tortellini soup from From Love & Lemons Simple Feel Good Food © 2023 by Jeanine Donofrio. Excerpted by permission of Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography by Jeanine Donofrio. All rights reserved.
Credit: Jeanine Donofrio

I have a problem — a lemon problem. I think that there are very few foods that a squeeze of lemon juice won’t improve. So as I go about my day, making avocado toast for breakfast (with a spritz of lemon juice), a salad for lunch (with a lemon dressing), and pasta for dinner (with lemony pesto and lemon roasted broccoli on the side), I end up using a lot of lemons. 

Until a few years ago, this was totally fine by me. I loved lemons! Why not enjoy a pop of citrus on any dish that needed brightening up? But around 2018, I doubled down on limiting the amount of food waste that came out of my kitchen. Instead of tossing “scraps” like carrot tops, broccoli stems, and cauliflower cores, I found new ways to use them. Carrot top gremolata! Broccoli stem pickles! Cauliflower Alfredo sauce!

And then I noticed the lemons. Ninety percent of the time I reached for one, I only used the juice, letting the zest go to waste. Sometimes, I’d use it as a fresh topping for a pasta or soup, or I’d mix it into cake or muffin batter. But if I wanted to save all those lemon peels, I needed to find a dish that would use more of them.

So I started making the Lemon Peel Broth that I share in my new cookbook, Love & Lemons: Simple Feel Good Food. I will never toss a lemon peel again. Simmered with celery, garlic, salt, and pepper, lemon peels create a golden broth with a delicate savory flavor. It’s so tasty that I’m happy sipping it on its own, but it also makes a wonderful soup base, especially for my Tortellini Soup with Lemon Peel Broth, in which the simple soup ingredients let the broth shine. 

My lesson? Don’t toss the tops, or the stems, or the peels. You might be missing out.

Before You Make It …

  • Peel lemons before you juice them. This is super easy to do with a vegetable peeler. Freeze the peels until you have enough to make the broth.
  • Press gently when you peel the lemons. You want the peels to be mostly yellow zest, with as little white pith as possible. Too much pith can add bitter notes to the broth.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of the other broth ingredients. The celery and garlic bring balance to this broth, making it sweeter and more complex.
  • Freeze the broth. If you end up with extra broth, it freezes perfectly!

Tortellini Soup with Lemon Peel Broth Recipe

Cheese tortellini and fresh veggies highlight the delicate flavor of the no-waste lemon peel broth in this comforting soup.

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the lemon peel broth:

  • 4

    celery stalks, including leaves

  • 2

    garlic bulbs, sliced in half horizontally

  • Peels from 4 lemons

  • 2 teaspoons

    sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    black peppercorns

  • 10 cups

    water

For the tortellini soup:

  • 9 ounces

    store-bought tortellini

  • 4 cups

    Lemon Peel Broth

  • 2 cups

    fresh spinach

  • 1 cup

    frozen peas, thawed

  • 1 tablespoon

    fresh lemon juice

  • 2 cups

    fresh basil leaves

  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Make the lemon peel broth:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.

  2. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

  3. Strain and discard the vegetables, peppercorns, and lemon peels. Season to taste.

Make the tortellini soup:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

  2. Prepare the tortellini according to the package instructions, cooking until al dente.

  3. Drain and set aside.

  4. Warm the broth in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat until heated through, about 2 minutes.

  5. Add the cooked tortellini, spinach, peas, lemon juice, and half the basil. Stir until the spinach is wilted, about 1 minute. Season to taste.

  6. Portion the soup into bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil, the remaining basil, several grinds of pepper, and pinches of red pepper flakes, if desired.

Recipe Notes

To store broth: Allow it to cool to room temperature after cooking. Transfer it to airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

Reprinted with permission from Love & Lemons Simple Feel Good Food © 2023 by Jeanine Donofrio. Excerpted by permission of Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography by Jeanine Donofrio. All rights reserved.