The variations on Soupe au Pistou are as numerous as there are cooks. Here’s my take on this wonderful French classic, a cousin of Italy’s minestrone. Don’t let all the steps intimidate you. It’s an easy soup to make, and make it you should. The aroma of pistou melting into the hot soup is divine, the blend of flavors exquisite. And, it’s good for you!
The first step can be done a day ahead, so finishing the soup is a snap. For a totally vegan version, substitute veggie cheese for the Parmesan in the pistou.
SOUPE au PISTOUStep 1:
14 cups vegetable stock or water
2 tsps. salt
4 large carrots, diced
3 medium potatoes, diced
1 large leek, white part only, chopped
Place ingredients in 8-quart stock pot. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes. If not finishing soup right away, set aside or refrigerate until 20 minutes before serving.
4-5 packages powdered saffron
1 slice stale white bread, crumbled
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz. can pink or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small yellow squash. diced
8 oz. fresh haricots verts (thin French green beans), trimmed and diced
1/3 cup small pasta or spaghetti broken into 1/2-inch pieces
Return soup to boil. 15 minutes before serving, add above ingredients and simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are tender. Add boiling broth or water if soup becomes too thick. Season with salt and pepper.
For the Pistou:
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1¼ cups extra virgin olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz. fresh basil, chopped
5-6 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup Grated Parmesan Reggiano or Grated Veggie Cheese
Combine first five ingredients. Depending on your preference, add cheese of your choice, or divide the pistou and make both a Parmesan version and a Veggie version. (Note: I make extra pistou because I make both versions for our writers' group supper. Also, leftover pistou is delicious on pasta or in risotto.)
Serve the soup and pass the pistou, allowing each diner to stir a spoonful into the hot soup. Serve with crusty French bread and homemade croutons, if desired. Serves 6-8.