When cool weather hits, there’s nothing like a warm bowl of soup to ease the chill. Soupe au Pistou, a Provençal vegetable soup originating from Nice, does exactly that. Late summer vegetables combine with a garlic and basil pesto topping to create a flavorful, nourishing meal.
This recipe is infinitely adaptable. Exchange the zucchini for a golden butternut squash, or the green beans for swiss chard; omit the tomatoes; add a sprinkle of parmesan; even substitute quinoa or rice in place of the pasta! Let this recipe serve as a base for your own culinary exploration.
Soupe au Pistou
(Yield: makes about 5 quarts)
Ingredients for the Soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, sliced
1 onion, diced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 medium carrots (6 oz, 170g), peeled and diced
1 medium zucchini (1 lb, 450g), diced
1/2 pound (230g) green beans, tips removed and cut crosswise into quarters
2 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1-28oz can (about 800g) of diced tomatoes
2-15oz cans (about 850g total) of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1.5 quarts (1.4L) of water
1 cup (100g) dried small pasta, such as orzo, vermicelli, elbows, or shells
Ingredients for the Pistou:
5 large cloves of garlic
1/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (about two large bunches), coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) olive oil
To make the soup:
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the leeks and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent.
- Add thyme, carrots, zucchini, green beans, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are cooked through.
- Add the beans, tomatoes, water, and pasta. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes until the pasta is cooked. While the soup is simmering, make the pistou.
To make the pistou:
- Using a mortar and pestle or food processor, pound or process the garlic and salt into a paste.
- Add basil, incorporating it into the garlic until smooth.
- Lastly, add olive oil. Taste and salt accordingly.
- Note: If you can’t find the large quantity of basil needed to make your own pistou, or you'd simply like to save some time, store-bought pesto would provide a similar flavor and be just as delicious.
Serve this hearty soup with a swirl of pistou and enjoy with a crusty baguette, warm and fresh from the boulangerie.
All of these ingredients can be picked up at one of Paris' many open-air markets. See our guide to shopping for groceries like a Parisian here!
(All images by the Author. Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz)