Pre-made pesto sauce can be used instead of the homemade pistou. If you do use it, get the kind in the refrigerator section of the market, where the fresh pasta is. Mix it with a little freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of the best extra virgin olive oil you have. This will really freshen up the flavors and no one will know that it came from a plastic container!
As always, I substituted chicken broth for water to make this soup. You could also use vegetable broth. I just think that doing this adds a lot more flavor.
Soupe au Pistou is a really thick and hearty main dish. Add a fresh tossed salad (with a French vinaigrette, of course) and a crusty baguette and you’re halfway to Provence. Wearing a black beret and listening to Edith Piaf Cd’s are optional!
- Small handful bay leaves
- Small handful thyme sprigs
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise and 10 cloves, peeled and quartered lengthwise
- Sea salt, to taste
- 1 pound fresh small white (navy) beans in the pod, shelled, or 8 ounces dried small white beans, soaked in boiling water for 1 hour
- 1 pound fresh cranberry beans in the pod, shelled, or 8 ounces dried cranberry beans, soaked in boiling water for 1 hour
- 3 medium leeks, white and tender green parts only, scrubbed, quartered, and finely sliced
- 8 medium carrots, scrubbed, quartered lengthwise, and sliced
- 2 medium onions, halved and cut into thin rings
- 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 12 ounces zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 12 ounces tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 pound green beans, trimmed at both ends and quartered
- 3 quarts cold water
- 1 cup very fine pasta, such as angel hair or orzo
- Patricia’s Pistou (recipe follows)
- 1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated imported Gruyere cheese
- Prepare a bouquet garni: Place bay and thyme leaves in a square of cheesecloth, and tie securely with cotton twine.
- In a large, heavy-bottomed 10-quart stockpot, combine the olive oil, 3 halved garlic cloves, bouquet garni, and salt. Stir to coat with the oil and cook over moderate heat until the garlic is fragrant and soft, about 2 minutes. Add the navy and cranberry beans, and stir to coat. Cook for 1 minute more.
- Add leeks, carrots, onions, potatoes, and quartered garlic cloves, and cook until softened over moderate heat, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes. This will give a lovely color and rich flavor to the soup.
- Add zucchini, tomatoes, tomato paste, green beans, 3 quarts cold water, and salt to taste. Simmer gently, uncovered, until the navy and cranberry beans are tender, about 30 minutes (cooking time will vary according to the freshness of the beans). Add additional water if the soup becomes too thick.
- Add pasta, and stir frequently to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot, simmering until the pasta is cooked, about 5 minutes more. Taste for seasoning. Remove and discard the bouquet garni.
- Serve the soup very hot, passing the pistou and cheese to swirl into the soup.
Patricia’s Pistou (Makes about 1 cup)
- 4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- Fine sea salt, to taste
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
By hand: Place garlic and salt in a mortar, and mash with a pestle to form a paste. Add basil, little by little, pounding and turning the pestle with a grinding motion to form a paste. Slowly add oil, drop by drop, until all the oil has been used and the paste is homogenous. Add salt to taste. Stir again before serving.
In a food processor: Place garlic, salt, and basil in the bowl of a food processor, and process to a paste. Add oil, and process again. Add salt to taste. Stir again before serving. Transfer to a small bowl. Serve immediately.
The sauce can be stored, covered and refrigerated, for 1 day, or frozen for up to 6 months. Bring to room temperature, and stir again before serving.