I remember eating this soup recipe when I was a child, which was from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook. I liked the fact that I could scoop out more pesto and sprinkle shredded Parmesan on my own bowl. From the age of 5, as far back as I remember, I have always loved to watch cheese melt. This recipe is either identical or very similar to that my mother made, and it is just as yummy as I remembered.
In this cookbook, the author explains that this Provençal soup is really Italian minestrone soup in French form, and that the pesto that is used at the end is similar to the pistou used by their Italian neighbors. It is interesting to note that traditionally pesto is not made with pine nuts in Provençal cuisine, and some recipes add tomatoes, such as this recipe.
I made the one change I had to the recipe by using a bullet blender instead of making the pistols by hand with a mortar and pestle. It would certainly be more romantic to hand blend the garlic, but I opted for the more efficient 20th century method and blended it in under 20 seconds. I put the garlic in for two 10-second cycles to get the right texture of grainy and not pure liquid.
It’s the perfect recipe to use up the vegetables left in your fridge. We used some pretty purple carrots that are yellow on the inside, along with basil from a local farm. However, the soup was still colorful and lovely without the haricots vests and green beans.
The pistou was extremely garlicky, so my next attempt will use only 2 cloves of garlic instead of 3. It was still my favorite part of the broth, adding a zesty, salty flavor, just like in my childhood. Perhaps I will double the pistou recipe, toast some baguette slices, and serve them with the soup alongside it next time. You can also make this for a large gathering by doubling or tripling the recipe.
Soupe au Pistou
The recipe here is adapted from: A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse, by Mimi Thorisson.
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
The cooking time is: 120 minutes.
Serves: 3 persons
As for the soup:
- White beans, 4 oz., rinsed and soaked overnight with water.
- Four ounces of dried kidney beans soaked in water overnight, rinsed.
- One bay leaf
- 1 and a half tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Cut 4 oz. haricot vert into 1 cm cubes
- Two tomatoes, halved, peeled, seeded and diced
- One zucchini, diced
- Half an onion, thinly sliced
- Two small carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1/3 leek, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts.
- Three thinly sliced garlic cloves
- 1.5 liters (3 cups) of water
- A few fresh thyme sprigs
- Freshly ground pepper and fine sea salt
- Half a cup of elbow macaroni
Regarding the pistou:
- Basil leaves from one bunch, chopped
- Three cloves of garlic (I recommend trying two first because it is very zesty when combined with three!)
- Three tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- Parmesan cheese — 1/3 cup, plus more for serving
- Freshly ground pepper and coarse sea salt
- Peeled, seeded and diced 1/2 ripe tomato. (I used three cherry tomatoes.)
Please follow the directions below.
- Pour the white beans and kidney beans into a large saucepan, and cover with enough water to cover by 3 inches. Add the bay leaf. Simmer until the beans are tender, about one and a half hours. Drain and set aside.
- Warm the olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the haricots verts, the tomatoes, the zucchini, sliced onions, sliced carrots, and leek for 4 minutes. Put the water, thyme, salt and pepper into a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Cook the macaroni until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- As the pasta cooks, prepare the pistou. Press the basil and garlic to a paste in a mortar. Slowly add the olive oil, garlic, parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the tomato.
- Season the soup with fine sea salt after adding the cooked beans.
- To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top each with pistou and Parmesan cheese. Pistou leftovers should be served in a separate pinch bowl.