Soupe au Pistou

Once again, vegetarian dinner guests have challenged my culinary creativity. This time, rather than turning to the Moosewood or other veggie tome, I decided to cull a meatless dinner from a more classic source – Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This Provencal vegetable bean soup has everything one could ask for in a meal. Add a sourdough baguette and a salad and it’s more than enough for dinner for eight.

Soupe au Pistou

3 quarts water
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced leeks
2 cups diced potatoes
(I also added about 1/2 bulb fennel, diced )
1 tbsp salt
2 cups canned white cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained.
1/3 cup broken spaghetti or vermicelli
2 cups diced green beans
1 slice stale white bread, processed in the food processor to make crumbs (I used a stale pita)
pinch of saffron (I used turmeric)
1/4 cup chopped parsley (my addition)

For the Pistou
4 cloves mashed garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 t 1/2 cup fruit olive oil
4 tbsp tomato paste or 6 tbsp fresh tomato puree

I used 3/4 cup prepared pesto (without pine nuts) instead of the first 4 ingredients and just blended in the tomato paste by hand.

Add potatoes, leeks, and carrots to 3 qt cold water with 1 tbsp salt in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 40 minutes.

Twenty minutes before serving, so the green vegetables retain their freshness, add the beans, spaghetti or vermicelli, bread and seasoning to the simmering soup. Simmer another 15 minutes or until the green beans are just cooked. Correct seasonings.

Prepare the pistou while the soup is cooking. Blend garlic, tomato puree or paste, basil and cheese either by hand or in the food processor till smooth. Add the olive oil gradually. (If using prepared pesto, just blend in the tomato paste to the pesto). Place in the bottom of the soup tureen. When the soup is ready for serving, beat a cup gradually into the pistou. Pour in the rest of the soup. Serve with hot french bread or with hard-toasted bread rounds basted with olive oil

Makes 6-8 servings.

3 Responses to Soupe au Pistou

  1. TBAM
    Ah, like you I like cooking and have a special interest in French regional cookery. Your soupe au pistou looks appetising . My son’s parents in law come from Provence and when we visit them in high summer Madame cooks soupe au pistou. It is a favourite of mine. I don’t have her recipe but I think it is very close to the recipe I have reproduced from “Cuisine provençale” published by Hachette. I would like to add that, in my view, the flavour is improved by using fresh haricot beans and very ripe tomatoes, which implies, in France at any rate, eating in high summer.
    500g haricit vert, 600g white haricot beans, 3 tomatoes, 1 courgette, 3 leeks the (white part). 3 carrots, 2 or 3 firm potatoes, stick of celery, 1 onion, 100g vermicelli or short spaghettie, 3 soup spoonfuls of olive oil, sea salt and milled pepper. Pistou fresh basil, 2 cloves of garlic, 15cl olive oil, 100 g of gruyère cheese, I don’t need to detail the method but there is a caveat to the pistou: “Pistou est le nom de la sauce et non celui du basilica comme on a souvent tendace à le croire”. My shot at this is, (perhaps someone will have a better translation): Pistou is the name of the sauce and not the name of the basil paste, which people often tend to think. (for 8 people)

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