Ah soupe au pistou, I love you, thanks for making every single bite a golden taste of Summer! No other soup more clearly defines Provence than soupe au pistou. It is the edible history of the ‘arrière-pays’, or hinterlands of Provence where farmers have long tended their fields growing some of the most amazing vegetables and fruits. There are several versions of Pistou ranging from ham and bean based ones to purely vegetable ones. This one is based on what my maman taught me, though she would roll her eyes at the very thought of canned beans and San Marzano tomatoes. I find them to be suitable substitutes with little loss of quality and/or flavor. By all means substitute freshly cooked beans and just picked tomatoes. Pistou can be confusing for us Americans as it refers both to the soup and pesto-like basil sauce. The pistou sauce I make is not traditional but has an amazing flavor and stays green forever. Do not buy pre-made pesto as a substitute. They are vastly inferior and will ruin the final outcome.
Soupe au Pistou
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 each onion chopped
- 4 each carrot chopped
- 1 each leek chopped, washed
- 4 cloves garlic mashed
- 2 each zucchini chopped
- 1/2 14 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 quart water
- 1 can Great Northern beans
- 1 cup green beans chopped
- 2 each potatoes peeled and cubed
- 1 each bay leaf
- sea salt
- black pepper
- 1 cup vermicelli cooked
- 1 cup grated Gruyère or Parmesan
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan
- 1 each fingerling potato peeled , boiled
- 1 cup olive oil
- 4 ounces fresh basil
Soupe au pistou
Heat olive oil in a large sauce pot, and lightly cook chopped onion, carrots and washed leeks.
Add garlic and zucchini and continue cooking till the vegetables are softening and your kitchen is filled with a beautiful scent that would make Marcel Pagnol smile.
Add tomatoes, water, beans, green beans, potatoes and bay leaf and simmer tenderly till everything is cooked, about thirty minutes.
I recommend letting soup sit overnight to develop the flavors.
Put peeled garlic, shredded Parmesan, boiled potato and olive oil into a food processor. Puree till creamy and smooth.
Bring four quarts of water to a rapid boil, and drop basil leaves in. Use a strainer to remove basil leaves immediately and cool off in ice water. Squeeze water out and add to pureed garlic and Parmesan.
Puree till smooth.
To serve, ladle soup in bowl and garnish with a dollop of pistou and shredded cheese.