soupe au pistou

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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.