Soupe au Pistou is an easy homemade vegetable soup recipe that is perfect for winter or spring. Let the vegetables that are in season guide you, and use whatever beans you have in the cupboard.
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Soupe au Pistou (also called Provençal Soup) is a classic French vegetable soup that has as many variations as your cupboard has crannies. It's made with whatever vegetables are in season, and bulked up with pantry staples like beans and canned tomatoes.
You'll be surprised how much flavor you get without using any kind of stock, just add water to the tomatoes. You can use whatever is in the pantry and in season at the market. It seems to be one of those recipes that is more of a gesture or a suggestion.
In fact, it embodies the very thing that Jacqes Pepin refers to when he says you must take a recipe and make it your own each time, according to the ingredients you have, the time of year, the type of pan you use, etc.
I was inspired by Julia Child's Soupe au Pistou recipe, but also one from my Buvette cookbook, and one from Anthony Bourdain. I found almost no concensus except that pistou has no nuts of any kind in it. (Julia's pistou has tomato in it!)
For the soup:
- Canned whole tomatoes: I prefer San Marzano here for their incredibly bright flavor.
- Onions, carrots and leeks: These are doing double duty as the aromatics in our broth and actual vegetables in the soup. The leeks make it very French, no?
- Olive oil: To sauté the veggies and get us started
- Water: Yes, this is an ingredient. It is going to be our "stock." It will take on all the flavors of the vegetables. Easy and economical.
- Black beans and cannelini beans: You can really use whatever canned beans you have. Chickpeas would be great, kidney beans, too. And if you just want to use one kind of bean, do that!
- Spinach: Or another leafy green like kale or Swiss chard. Just get something green in there.
- Crushed red pepper, salt and pepper: The crushed red pepper is optional.
For the pistou
- Olive oil, fresh basil, parmesan, garlic: I always recommend using authentic parmigiano reggiano. The taste and texture are so much better, it's worth the investment.
In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, sauté leeks, onion and carrot in olive oil until they begin to soften. Then add all remaining ingredients except spinach.
Simmer until flavors are combined, about an hour. Add spinach about 15 minutes before serving.
Meanwhile, make the pistou in a food processor. For a small amount like this, I use a mini food processor. Add the basil, cheese and garlic and pulse together, then add the olive oil in batches and pulse until it becomes a paste, or stream it in if you wish.
Remove the soup from the heat, serve topped with a big dollop of pistou, a drizzle of olive oil, and a bit more cheese on top.
Can you freeze soupe au pistou?
Yes!! This soup freezes well in an airtight container for up to four months. A great way to preserve those vegetables from the garden for a later date.
Can you make soupe au pistou vegan?
Yes! Just eliminate the cheese from the pistou. You'll want to use less olive oil since the cheese isn't there to soak it up.
These vegetarian soups also use water as a base, no stock necessary.
- Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Brie is another wonderfully simple French soup that uses only a few ingredients.
- For something that is light but hearty, try Tuscan White Bean Soup with Kale.
Soupe au Pistou
- 4 cups water
- 1 can whole tomatoes 15 ounces
- 2 carrots diced
- 1 onion diced
- 2 leeks white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
- 1 can black beans
- 1 can cannellini beans
- 3 handfuls fresh spinach or one small box frozen cooked
- pinch crushed red pepper
- salt and cracked black pepper to taste
- 2 cups fresh basil
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup Parmigiano cheese or Pecorino
- 1 clove garlic grated on a microplane
- In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, sauté leeks, onion and carrot in olive oil until they begin to soften.
- Then add all ingredients except spinach. Simmer until flavors are combined, about an hour. Add spinach about 15 minutes before serving.
- Remove the soup from the heat, serve topped with a big dollop of pistou, a drizzle of olive oil, and a bit more cheese on top.
- Make the pistou in a food processor. Add the basil, cheese and garlic and pulse together, then add the olive oil in batches and pulse until it becomes a paste, or stream it in if you wish.