Soupe au pistou

Soupe au pistou

This soup is perfect for summer. Made from lots of fresh summer vegetables, beans and a little bit of pasta, it’s light and delicious.

Soupe au pistou (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Soupe au pistou (Photo by Jessica Grann)

I rarely eat hot soup during the summer months, but I make an exception for soupe au pistou. It’s made from lots of fresh summer vegetables, beans and a little bit of pasta, so it’s light and delicious.

Pistou is a Provencal basil pesto made without the nuts and cheese of Italian pesto. You place a dollop of the pistou on top of the soup, and the garlicky basil sauce just melts into the broth.

My vegetable soup recipe stands well on its own, but the pistou takes the flavor to another level.

The key to adding any pasta or noodle to soup is cooking it separately ahead of time and then adding it to each bowl when serving. This keeps the soup broth clear and the pasta from getting soggy. It also allows for any leftovers to be rewarmed while keeping the consistency of freshly-made soup.

I love simple, Mediterranean-style food year-round. This healthy soup is as good as it gets.

To make this recipe vegan, replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth.


¾ cup dry pasta, cooked separately according to package. I suggest tiny soup shells, ditalini or another very small-sized pasta.

Vegan basil pistou
4 cups fresh basil, long stems removed, washed and fully dried
5 cloves minced garlic
½ cup olive oil
⅛ teaspoon sea salt; add more to taste

Vegetable soup
12 cups chicken or vegetable broth. Store-bought is OK.
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced onion
1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 large zucchini, cubed, about 3 cups
1 large summer squash, cubed, about 2 cups
2 large carrots, peeled and diced, about 2 cups
1 large potato, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, about 14 ounces
2 cans cannellini or white beans, rinsed and drained
1 large bay leaf
2 cups fresh green beans, broken by hand into small pieces
1 tablespoon sea salt; add more to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper


For the pistou
Wash and let the basil air dry a few hours before you make the pistou. It’s really important that the leaves are not wet.

Basil pistou (Photo by Jessica Grann)

Combine the basil, minced garlic, salt and olive oil in a food processor and pulse until well blended.

Scoop the pistou into a small bowl and drizzle it with olive oil to keep the color, using a rubber spatula to get every last drop out of the food processor bowl.

If not using immediately, cover it with plastic wrap.

This keeps well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. If you have any left over, it’s wonderful in omelets or mixed into a salad.

For the soup
You can use store-bought chicken broth or vegetable broth if making this recipe vegan.

To make fresh chicken stock in a slow cooker overnight: Put a small chicken, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, a few peppercorns, 3 stalks of celery and half of an onion into the slow cooker and fill it with about 14 cups of water. Let it cook on high for a few hours before setting it to low to cook overnight. Refrigerate the broth if you will use it within a few days; otherwise, freeze it for later use.

I never make any soup by just throwing everything into a pot and walking away. You can do that when making stock, but the individual vegetables won’t stand out if you don’t cook them for different amounts of time.

In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat before adding the onions. Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the celery and leek, and sauté for another 5 minutes, then add the zucchini, yellow squash and carrots. Give everything a good stir to distribute the oil and reduce the heat slightly.

Stir occasionally for another 10 minutes.

Add the minced garlic, stirring constantly for 1 minute or until fragrant.

Add the can of diced tomatoes (with juices) and the potato.

Add 12 cups of the broth of your choice and bring it to a boil over high heat.

Add a bay leaf and the rinsed cannellini beans, reduce the heat and simmer at a soft boil for 30 minutes. Do not cover.

Add the green beans (I usually tear these by hand) and cook them for an additional 20 minutes. Adding the green beans later keeps their texture firm. You can also add a cup of peas or use peas instead of green beans. Either way, add them last.

The vegetables release a lot of water, so check for salt at this point and add a little olive oil if the broth tastes weak.

Add fresh ground pepper.

When serving, add a tablespoon or two of the cooked pasta — which makes a nice little addition to the soup without overpowering it — and a spoonful or two of pistou, and stir into the broth. Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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