Dinner’s Ready: Kari Yarbrough’s Creamy Tortellini with Chicken and Creamy Pesto

ESP dinner family Feb 23

“My creation of KEYs Southern Spice ® seasoning was a result of pure luck and experimentation,” shares 16-year-old Kari Yarbrough from Fairhope, AL.

This young entrepreneur’s website describes KEYs Southern Spice ® seasoning as a fusion of the South’s greatest flavors and traits. Because of this, the seasoning can be found in several markets throughout the Southeast.

“When I was eight, I often played around in the kitchen. With my parents’ permission, I would literally throw together different ‘concoctions.’ One day, I experimented with spices,” said Kari. “After tweaking it a few times, I asked my parents to try it. To our surprise, it was really good! So good, in fact, we started cooking with it at home and then for others during cookouts. Through word of mouth, the requests for the seasoning grew quickly.”

In 2016, the family decided to start production on this ‘all Alabama’ product at a company located in Calera, AL.

“I should mention that my product is low in sodium, all-natural, has no preservatives or MSG, and is Gluten Free,” Kari shared. “KEYs Southern Spice ® is good on so many things: all proteins whether you grill, bake, fry or sauté. It is the perfect seasoning when roasting veggies.

My favorite way to use it is by sprinkling a little on my bacon while cooking it. Bill-E’s Small Batch Bacon is the best!”

When Kari isn’t promoting her spice, she is just a typical junior in high school. She loves to hang out with friends, listen to music, hunt, and spend time with her furry family members.

“We all have hectic schedules so most of our quality time is spent in the kitchen and eating meals together,” said Kari of her mom Melissa, dad Chad and older sister, Samantha. “We all love exploring new recipes and sharing food pics on my company’s social media pages. My dad is a pretty awesome grill master, too! We love music playing over the speakers while we have fun cooking and talking. Meals are truly a family affair for us.”

Business is also a family affair for Kari and the Yarbrough family. Her mom Melissa shares that while Kari is the ‘genius creator’ of the seasoning, every family member plays a part in the operation of KEYs Southern Spice ®.

“We believe her story as a young entrepreneur sets the example for other young children and teenagers to be creative and have fun,” said Melissa. She continued, “Dream BIG and Believe in Yourself!”

Kari loves making pasta dishes, and one of her favorite meals is a Cheese Tortellini with Chicken and Creamy Pesto. She originally made this dish for the first time for her grandmother’s birthday, and while the recipe is simple, it is packed with flavor, especially since it features her very own seasoning to spice it up!

You can learn more about Kari and KEYs Southern Spice ® by visiting

Creamy Tortellini with Chicken and Creamy Pesto


• olive oil
• 1 pound chicken breast or tenderloins (cut in 1-in cubes)
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 ½ cups milk
• 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
• 1 cup heavy cream
• ¼ cup pesto
• ½ c parmesan cheese (freshly shredded)
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 pound cheese tortellini
• Fresh basil for garnishing (optional)
• KEYs Southern Spice ® to taste (optional)


• In a skillet with tall sides, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and/or KEYs Southern Spice ®
• Cook the chicken for about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside.
• Boil the tortellini according to package directions.
• In the same skillet that you cooked the chicken, add the butter and garlic. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the butter is melted, then whisk in the flour and cook for one minute. Pour in the milk and whisk until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the cream cheese until smooth. Add the heavy cream, pesto and parmesan. Simmer until thickened, another 2-3 minutes.
• Add the cooked tortellini and chicken to the pesto cream sauce. Simmer until the chicken is warm, about 3-5 minutes.
• Serve with fresh basil and more pesto, if desired.


Gabriele has been married to her husband Daniel for 16 years. Together they have three incredible children - two boys, ages 15 and eight, and a sweet girl who joined the family last summer. She is a full time Pink Cadillac Sales Director for Mary Kay Cosmetics. When she isn’t spending time with family or building her business, she supports her husband who is the Lead Pastor and Planter of Forward Church in Foley.

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