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.
Why I picked this recipe: I tend to eat a lot of minestrone-type soups, but I'd never made one with cream before.
What worked: This ever-so-slightly creamy take on Italian vegetable soup may not be traditional but it is downright tasty.
What didn't: Becker calls for fresh pasta in the ingredient list, but then allows for 8 to 10 minutes of cooking time in the pot (a bit too long for the fresh stuff). I used dried instead, which matched up with his cooking time. That said, I thought 8 ounces of pasta was far too much for this soup. Next time, I'll go down by half to 4 ounces.
Suggested tweaks: You could easily make this soup vegan by leaving out the cream and cheese garnish, but it will be much less rich. Canned plum tomatoes would also make a fine substitute for fresh (especially in the middle of winter).
Reprinted with permission from Stewed: A Collection of Soups, Braises, and Stews from Sweet Basil by Dave Becker, copyright 2012. Published by Garden Variety Publishing. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:serves 4 to 6
- Active time: 45 minutes
- Total time:45 minutes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup carrots, scrubbed, 1/4-inch dice
- 1 cup Spanish onions, 1/4-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup celery, minced
- Pinch chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 quart water
- 1 cup plum tomatoes, 1/4-inch dice
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces fresh pasta
- 1 cup zucchini, diced and blanched
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh spinach
- Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- Grated cheese (such as Parmesan or Romano)
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, torn into little scraps
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil for 1 minute over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and sauté for 1 minute. Add the onions and sauté for 1 additional minute before adding the garlic, celery, and rosemary. Sauté this mixture for 5 minutes, or until the ingredients are caramelized.
Add the white wine and bay leaf, bring to a boil, and add the water, tomatoes, and heavy cream. Bring to a boil, add the pasta, decrease the heat to low, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked. Remove the pan from the heat, fish out the bay leaf, and swirl in the zucchini and spinach. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls, and garnish with the grated cheese and basil.