Dave Becker's Red Minestrone in his new cookbook Stewed looks a lot like what you'd order at any Italian restaurant. It's got many of the usual players—tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, celery, and pasta—and is simmered gently to preserve the color and flavor of each component. However, instead of adding beans as a thickening agent, Becker introduces a heavy drizzle of cream to the mix. The cream transforms what is often considered peasant food into a luxuriously silky stew.
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I love soups that do not call for chicken stock, which I seldom have on hand, but that still offer tons of flavor. This brilliant minestrone, which is probably my favorite recipe in my well-loved copy of The Art of Simple Food, fits that bill and a few others: vegetarian, check; cheap, check; bursting with healthy vegetables, check; studded with filling beans, check; hearty enough to make a meal of, check.
Minestrone is a spring rite of passage, but it continues into the summer. The first minestrone, with snap peas and asparagus, is beautifully simple. Then as more vegetables are available, the options increase. I'd never tried Genovese minestrone before, but...