I’m a huge fan of soup. Honestly, I’d make soup a few times a week if I could get away with it; big, hearty soups packing great punches of flavor, served with steamy, crusty bread, and good wine! But I can’t get away with it. So, I appease myself with once every couple of weeks. With the weather warming up, I’ll probably start to cut that back even further and just start a mental countdown to November…or, December.
This particular soup caught my eye because, while it’s technically a vegetable/minestrone soup (albeit French), it seemed really hearty; lots of veggies, some pasta, and beans. So, I whipped it together (not quite that fast), sampling as I went along. Every time I sampled it, I thought, “Bland, bland, bland.” I was really, really disappointed. So when I ladled it out, I did so with a caveat: This isn’t my best effort. It was truly garden-variety average.
And then I added the pesto (pistou), grated in some cheese, and the whole soup changed. It went from ho-hum and mundane to Ooh La La in a twirl of the spoon. Wow! Delicious! Bold! Hearty! All those things I was hoping this soup would be. The pesto and cheese is really the crowning glory.
The recipe below is a variation of one I found at Epicurious. I’d looked at any number of recipes (101 Cookbooks, David Leibovitz, Ina Garten, etc)., and they’re all remarkably similar with only subtle, cook-inspired differences. Most, if not all, call for using water instead of chicken stock. Hence, the really bland flavor in my first attempt. This time I used chicken stock which, arguably, means it’s not authentic Soupe au Pistou, but tough et vous! I like it better with stock! I think you will, too. Enjoy!
Soupe au Pistou
- 1 celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 large thyme sprig
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup dried cannelloni beans, rinsed and soaked
- 1/2 pound Swiss chard, stems cut into 1/2-inch pieces and leaves coarsely chopped
- 8 cups water or low sodium chicken stock
- 1 cup thawed frozen edamame (fresh soybeans)
- 1/2 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3/4 cup medium pasta shells
- Cook celery, carrot, garlic, and thyme sprig in oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 5-to 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables brown and stick to bottom of pot, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add potatoes and chard stems with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits.
- Stir in edamame, zucchini, green beans, pasta, chard leaves, and 1/4 tsp salt and simmer, uncovered, until pasta is al dente and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard thyme sprig.
- Divide among four bowls and top with the pistou.
- 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 10 fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
Put the garlic and tomato in a blender or food processor with about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Begin processing. With the machine running, add the basil leaves, and then pour in enough extra-virgin olive oil to make a smooth, thick, but fluid paste. Transfer about 2/3 of the paste into a serving bowl to pass alongside the soup.