Provençal Vegetable Soup with Tomato-Basil Pesto (Soupe Au Pistou)

I first discovered Soupe au Pistou, Provençal Vegetable Soup with Tomato-Basil Pesto, when reading Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Ma. This book is not to be confused with Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Simone Beck, Louisette Berthole, and Julia Child (her first cookbook).

Ann Ma describes her experience traveling to a village in Southern France during summer vegetable harvest time. When gardens are bursting with ripe tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, white beans, fresh basil, and potatoes– what to do?

They have the perfect solution in this small town. Everyone gathers with their surplus produce to slice, dice, and make huge pots of brothy Soupe au Pistou to be shared with friends and family. It’s a real community event, and I imagine it’s much more fun than slaving away by yourself in a hot kitchen in July or August.

In preparing to teach this recipe, I referenced a few other versions of the recipe, the one in Mastering the Art of French Cooking and the most recent one in Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Soups. I came up with this version, that can easily made vegan by leaving out the parmesan cheese. I prefer to serve grated parmesan on the side. 

If you’re using leeks (rather than onions) in this recipe, go ahead and make a simple stock out of the green parts. Just slice the green parts of the leek, rinse well under cold water, then place them in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Strain out the leek greens and you are left with a light and flavorful broth to use in your Soupe Au Pistou!

For more soup recipes on my web site, visit:

Italian White Bean Soup

Italian Chickpea Soup with Fusilli

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Cecilia’s Pozole Verde

Miso Vegetable Soup

Creamy Corn Soup with Dulse

Creamy Broccoli Soup with Fresh Rosemary

Roasted Carrot and Fennel Soup

Provençal Vegetable Soup with Tomato-Basil Pesto (Soupe Au Pistou)
 
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“Early summer is the Mediterranean season for soupe au pistou, when fresh basil, fresh white beans, and broad mange-tout beans are all suddenly available, and the market women shout in the streets, “Mesdames, faites le bon piste, faites le pistou!” The pistou itself, like the Italian pesto, is a sauce made of garlic, basil, tomato, and olive oil, and is just as good on spaghetti as it is in this rich vegetable soup. Fortunately, this soup is not confined to summer and fresh vegetables, for you can use canned navy beans, fresh or frozen string beans, and a fragrant dried basil. Other vegetables in season may be added with the green beans as you wish, such as peas, diced zucchini, and green or red bell peppers.” — Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: French
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • Soup
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups leek (white parts) or onion, diced
  • 2 cups carrots, diced
  • 2 cups potatoes (yukon gold or red), diced
  • 8 cups spring or filtered water, divided
  • 2 cups zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups fresh green beans, ½” lengths
  • 2 cups cooked cranberry beans or white beans
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • Pistou
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • ½ cup fresh or canned tomato purée or 2 Roma tomatoes (seeded)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
  • ¼ to ½ cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat large soup pot over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add leeks or onion and sauté with a pinch of salt for a few minutes.
  2. Add carrots and potatoes and stir to combine.
  3. Add 4 cups water, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn to low and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the pistou by placing ingredients in a blender and blending until smooth. Instead of tomato puree, you can add two seeded Roma tomatoes to the blender.
  5. Add zucchini, green beans, cranberry or white beans (with cooking liquid if homemade; drained if canned), salt, and pepper. Add remaining 4 cups water (or more if needed), bring back to a boil, then lower heat and simmer slowly for 3 minutes.
  6. Stir pistou into soup and simmer 3 minutes more.
  7. Test for seasonings and add a little more salt and pepper if needed.
  8. Serve with rice, pasta, or fresh bread. Bon appétit!

Join me for upcoming Plant-based Cooking Classes for adults (lunchtime classes) and kids (summer camp) at Con’ Olio Olive Oils and Vinegars in their two locations– Bee Cave and Arboretum or schedule your own class from my on-demand offerings for families, groups, and individuals!

Macrobiotic-Style Giant Peruvian Lima Beans

The macrobiotic way of making beans involves washing, sorting, and soaking dry beans, cooking slowly with kombu until soft, then seasoning with sea salt and sauteed vegetables (if desired) and simmering a while longer. These steps ensure that your beans will be soft, flavorful, and digestible. Once you master this technique, you can make any kind of bean from scratch. Just vary your seasonings depending on the bean. For example, try pinto beans with garlic, onion, and cilantro, garbanzo beans with garlic and parsley, or black-eyed peas with bay leaf, onion, celery, and carrot.

Macrobiotic-Style Giant Peruvian Lima Beans
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Bean Dish
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Serves: 6 cups
Ingredients
  • 2 cups giant Peruvian lima beans
  • spring or filtered water
  • 2 inch piece kombu
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon red bell pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • zest of ½ lemon (optional)
Instructions
  1. Sort through beans, 1 cup at a time on a large plate, Discard any pebbles, broken beans, or other debris. Rinse beans and drain into a colander.
  2. Place rinsed beans in a large bowl and cover with at least 2 inches of spring or filtered water. Let soak for 6-12 hours (or overnight).
  3. Drain water from soaked beans and place in heavy-bottomed pot with enough water to cover beans by 1-2 inches.
  4. Bring beans to a boil. Let simmer uncovered for about 10-15 minutes and skimming foam that comes to the surface with a fine mesh skimmer.
  5. Add kombu and garlic, turn heat to low, and put lid on pot. Leave lid cracked a little so that the pot does not boil over. Periodically check the water level to make sure beans do not cook dry. More water should be added as needed to keep water just above the level of the beans.
  6. Cook beans for about 60-90 minutes, or until soft throughout.
  7. Add sea salt and simmer another 10 minutes.
  8. Serve in a bowl garnished with parsley, red bell pepper, and lemon zest, if desired.
Variations
  1. Add sautéed onion to the beans during the last 30 minutes or so of cooking.
  2. Pressure cook beans for creamier consistency.
Notes
  1. Serve with corn polenta and homemade pesto.

 

Authentic Italian Pesto

Round out your summer Italian feast with some pasta and homemade basil pesto (recipe from Monica Pesoli of Cook Like An Italian)! For a dairy-free version, omit Parmesan cheese and add 2 teaspoons sweet white miso or 1 teaspoon umeboshi vinegar and sea salt to taste.

Authentic Italian Pesto
 
An authentic Italian pesto, versatile and delicious. This would traditionally be used as a pasta sauce, but would also be good on bruschetta, meats, fish, or vegetables. Recipe courtesy of Monica Pesoli of "Like an Italian" cooking classes, language instruction, and Italy tours.
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups of basil leaves (no stems), tightly packed
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, Montebello brand recommended
Instructions
  1. Use all organic ingredients to the greatest extent possible. Wash basil and parsley nonetheless; de-vein basil leaves w/ largest veins.
  2. Add to a blender parsley, half the oil, garlic, nuts, cheese, and some salt if desired. Puree with lid on.
  3. Turn off blender, and add all basil, drizzling remaining oil over leaves. With blender off and using a rubber spatula, help to direct leaves under the blades by forcing them down along the sides of the blender. With the lid on, pulse the blender switch a number of times, catching leaves in the blades to puree. Continue to alternate forcing leaves down the sides of the blender towards the blades (with blender off and lid removed), and pulsing blender switch with lid on to puree leaves.
  4. Pesto is ready when leaves are evenly pureed, but mixture still has some texture (with no leafy bits). Use as pasta topping/sauce or on a multitude of other foods!

 

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