May 19, 2011

Soupe au pistou

A delicate soup with lush aromas that will transport you straight to Provence.

Soupe au pistou

Serves 8-10


For the soup
1 cup [200g] dried beans (see note)
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp [45 ml] olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and diced, or 4 leeks, cleaned and sliced
2 tsp [10 ml] chopped fresh thyme
2 medium carrots (6oz [170g]), peeled and diced
2 medium zucchini (1lb [450g]) diced
½ lb [260g] green beans, tips removed and cut crosswise into quarters
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tbsp [15 ml] sea salt, and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 qt [2L] vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup [250g] fresh or frozen peas
1 cup [100g] dried pasta; any small variety will do, such as orzo, vermicelli, elbows, or shells

For the pistou (makes 1 cup; can be increased proportionally)
1 large clove of garlic, peeled
Pinch of salt
2 cups [40g] packed fresh basil leaves
¼ cup [60ml] olive oil
1 small tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced
1½ oz [45g] Parmesan cheese, grated


Rinse and sort the beans. Soak the beans overnight covered in cold water.

The next day, drain the beans and put them in a large saucepan with the bay leaves and enough water to cover the beans with about 1½ quarts (1.5L) of water. Cook the beans for about an hour, or until tender, adding more water if necessary to keep them immersed. Once cooked, remove the beans from the heat and set aside.

In a Dutch oven or large stockpot, heat the olive oil. Add the onions or leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent.

Add the thyme, diced carrots, zucchini, green beans, garlic, and salt. Season with pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are completely cooked. Add the cooked beans and their liquid, then the peas and pasta, plus the vegetable or chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil, and simmer a few minutes until the pasta is cooked.

While the soup is cooking, make the pistou: in a mini-food processor, pulse the garlic with a generous pinch of salt until it is finely chopped. Coarsely chop the basil leaves, add them with the diced tomato to the garlic and pulse again until the mixture is relatively smooth.

Add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time, pulsing to blend everything together before adding more. Once all the oil is incorporated, add the cheese. Mix well. Taste, and season with more salt if desired.

To serve: Ladle hot soup into bowls and add a generous spoonful of pistou to the center. Keep extra pistou within reach because you’ll likely want to add more to the soup as you go.


– If by the end of cooking, you find the soup too thick for your taste, thin it with additional stock or water.
– Making this soup with dried beans is really the best, but if you forgot to soak them overnight, you can also substitute a 19 oz [540 ml] can of cannellini beans. Rinse the beans very well under running water and add them together with 1 quart [1L] water at the same step where you would have added the soaked beans.
– Try to have all the vegetables diced and sliced about the same size: it makes for a nice presentation and ensures everything cooks evenly.

Recipe Credit: Adapted from David Lebovitz

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