Pistou Soup

A fragrant Provençal soup, which can be served on its own as a meal or as a separate dish at a dinner.

‘Pistou’ is basically the French translation of Italian ‘Pesto’, which is used to flavor this summer vegetable soup. Historically, the two differed essentially in the absence of pine nuts in pistou.
I like to vary my pistou recipe, by incorporating pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese for an Italian version, or even walnuts, almonds or goat cheese, depending on whether I’m looking for a heartier or lighter version of the soup.

Originally, the golden rule of making this soup was to include summer vegetables such as green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, along with the traditional white beans and red beans. However, it is such a hearty soup, that I also like to adapt to other seasons by using cabbage or leeks and turn it into a more versatile, all season dish. So please feel free to explore by switching ingredients and turn it into your own unique version depending on where you live and the season.


For the soup-
1/2 yellow onion
4 celery stalks
4 carrots
2 cups dry white baby lima beans (soaked the night before)
2 cups red beans (soaked the night before)
4 small zucchinis
3 medium tomatoes
1/2 lb French green beans
1/2 cabbage

For the Pistou-
1.5 oz fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts (might be omitted)
8 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp lemon juice
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 oz parmesan cheese (might be omitted)

You might incorporate the pistou into the soup just before serving, or offer it at the table for each guest to add according to their own liking after the soup is served. Personally, I like a combination of both, by typically mixing about half the pistou into the soup and

Clean and dice the onion, celery and carrots in a rough mirepoix.

Moderately heat about 2 Tbsp of olive oil and add the mirepoix mixture. Cook over medium low heat until the onions are translucent.

Add the presoaked white and red beans, about 12 cups of water and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.

You might use half a white cabbage if making in winte

Slice cabbage and zucchini thickly

Cut French green beans in thirds.

Quarter the tomatoes to easily remove the green/white part attached to the stem.

Further cut in eights and run under water to remove the seeds.

Cut into large pieces.

Add tomatoes, zucchini, French green beans and cabbage to the simmering white and red beans. Bring to a boil again, and simmer for another 30 minutes or so.

The soup is ready when it reaches a hearty consistency

Meanwhile, prepare the Pistou.

Place the pine nuts, if using, in a dry, wide surface skillet on medium hear. Watch constantly, while occasionally tossing by shaking the pan, to ensure even toasting. Stop immediately as the pine nuts turn brown.

Be careful not to overlook the pine nuts otherwise they’ll burn in seconds.


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