Start by sauteeing garlic, crushed red pepper & onion in the olive oil in a large stewpot. After about 20-30 seconds over medium heat, add asparagus and carrots, raise heat slightly and continue to stir occasionally for 5-6 minutes.
Add vegetable broth, tomato paste & water and bring to a simmer, stirring until tomato paste is well incorporated. Add chopped herbs (I love fresh basil, thyme & oregeno, but I also use Mrs. Dash when I don't have anything fresh on hand), sugar and salt. I don't measure salt, but I'd guess I use about 1/2-1 teaspoons Allow this to simmer, covered for about 10 minutes.
Add 2 cans of white beans (do NOT drain them as the liquid packed in the beans help the soup to thicken) and bring back to a simmer. At this point, taste the broth and add cayenne or a bit more salt to adjust to your preference. Add corn and baby spinach, stirring gently, and simmer for an additional 5-6 minutes.
I love to serve this with garlic toast, cheese quesadillas, or just by itself topped with a bit of parmesan cheese.