Pistou Soup

February 15, 2017

Last Thursday, I came back from work with 8 inches of snow on my driveway.  Waiting for me, taunting me.  Fortunately this year was the year I decided to ditch the shovel and invest in a snow blower.  About an hour later, I finally finished clearing the driveway.  As I was sitting in the living room, trying to nurse my hands from a Raynaud’s flare, I thought about what to make for dinner.  I wanted something warm, I didn’t want to work too much, and I wanted to be reminded of summer.  Basil!  Fresh sweet basil.  Pistou soup was the answer.

Pistou soup or “soupe Pistou”, is a traditional French soup from the region of Provence.  It’s loaded with vegetables, it’s very versatile, and it’s delicious.  It’s bit like minestrone but French and much less heavy on the tomatoes.  Just before serving, the soup is infused with a sort of pesto called a “pommade”.  This infuses the soup with a burst of fresh basil.


2 tomatoes, cubed

2 zucchini, cubed

2 carrots, cubed

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed, a finely sliced

2 handfuls of fresh white beans

2 handfuls green beans

2 handfuls of dried macaroni


1 cup packed fresh basil

1 egg yolk

olive oil


Salt and pepper

  1. Cut all the vegetables into cubes.
  2. In a large enameled cast iron dutch oven, heat the olive oil, onion, tomatoes, and garlic over medium heat until soft.
  3. Add the carrots, zucchini, and the beans.
  4. Cover with water.  The water should be about 2 cm above the vegetables.  Salt as desired.  Remember, more salt is on the way so don’t add to much.
  5. Bring to a boil and cover.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook for about 45 minutes.  Add the pasta about 15 minutes before the end.
  6. In the meantime, prepare the pesto.  Also called “la pommade”.  It isn’t really a pesto in the strict sense.  In a food processor, grind the basil with the egg yolk.  If you really want to do it old-school, use a mortar.
  7. Add some grated Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.  No need to be precise.
  8. Then add the olive oil and emulsify.  Continue adding olive oil until you get a thick-ish paste.  It should not be too runny.
  9. Go back to your soup and remove it from the heat.  Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Ladle into a bowl, then add 2 tablespoons of “pommade”.  If you want more, knock yourself out!
  11. Serve with Parmesan cheese and sourdough bread.

Serves 6 – 8


If you want a little bit more protein in your soup, add a lamb shank or any other type of meat.  I personally like to add a pork neck bone.  Simply add the meat at step #3 and remove the bone before serving.  You can also return the meat in bite-sized pieces.

Gluten-free?  Skip the pasta.

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