For my very first post, I thought I would share one of my all-time favorite recipes, one that packs a lot of veggies and flavor, and reminds me just how good simple can taste. I learned this recipe from my French host mom, who is an icon of living well and simply. She taught me the value of good bread, how to properly cut and clean a leek, and how to flip an omelet without spilling egg all over the stove (there might have been a bit of trial and error and spilled egg before the lesson properly sunk in… to her credit she did not ban me from the kitchen!) Most importantly, she taught me about balance. “One must have balance,” she would say. Eat a little too much of that scrumptious Sunday dinner? Forego dessert the next day. A whole bar of chocolate would last weeks – one square in a sitting would suffice. In life as in food, balance is essential, and this soup’s flavors and textures are perfectly balanced. It’s also very healthy and a great way to get your veggies in. Without further ado…
Rachel’s Soupe au Pistou
(really my French host mom’s Soupe au Pistou)
More simply… French Vegetable Soup with Pesto
Soupe au pistou is a French dish originating in Provence. It is a late summer/early fall recipe, as that is when all the ingredients are in season. For me, Soupe au Pistou is the taste of my fall semester abroad in Aix-en-Provence. It is one of the first (of many) recipes of my host mother’s that I fell in love with and demanded she teach me, and I furiously scribbled down her instructions in garbled French and the metric system. When I returned to the states and procured my first food processor (which is still chugging along faithfully to this day), I converted it all into “American” and attempted to recreate it, with a little help from Julia Child’s own rendition of the recipe. With the caveat that everything tastes better when it comes from a French market and is prepared by your host mom, I have to say this is pretty darn close. Bon appetit!
Cooking and prep time : 1 hour or so Serving Size: 1.75 cups Servings (approx): 7
- 2T Olive oil
- 2 cups onion, diced (approx 1 medium )
- 2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced (approx 3 medium)
- 2 cups potatoes, in cubes (peeled or not – I rather like the peel; about 2 medium)
- 2 cups of fresh (or canned) green beans in 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium zucchini, quartered
- 1 medium yellow squash or zucchini, quartered ( I just like the different colors in my soup)
- 1 can of beans (kidney, white, pinto), drained
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 oz pasta/noodle of your choice
- 1 small onion
- 1 small-med potato, peeled
- 1 whole bunch basil
- 1/2 small can tomato paste
- As much garlic as you like (at least 3 cloves)
- Optional but strongly suggested: roasted red pepper
- Parmesan cheese
- crusty French bread
Nutritional information (without cheese or bread): 307 calories, 56 carbs, 7g fat, 10g protein
Start on the base for the pistou first…
- Quarter onion, cut potato into chunks, and bring to a boil in a saucepan with water until cooked.
While that’s cooking…
- Dice the medium onion, slice your carrots, and cube the potato.
- Coat the bottom of the soup pot with olive oil
- Add onions and sauté for a few minutes
- Add carrots and potatoes
- At this point, your onion and potato base should be done. Scoop the onion and potato into your blender and pour their cooking water into your soup pot to cover the carrot, potato, and onion mixture.
- Put the lid on the soup pot and simmer for 20 minutes.
While the soup pot simmers…
- Cut/snap the green beans if using fresh and cut the squash. If you have a food helper cat like we do, give him a bean to occupy him so he leaves you alone to finish the soup.
- Add the green beans. Add more water to cover them if needed. Cook 5 minutes.
- Using the same pan you used to boil the potato, start water to boil for the pasta and cook pasta according to the directions
- Add the squash and the canned beans (kidney, white, pinto, whatever) to the soup. Add more water to cover them if needed.
Now all the veggies are in. Let them simmer for another 30 minutes (lid on) while you finish the pistou…
- Add cooked potato and onion to blender
- Add in 1/2 small can tomato paste
- Add 1 T olive oil, or more if you like
- After cleaning off the basil leaves (I suggest in a salad spinner), add them too. I love basil and think the more the better, but you can use less if you like.
- Add in as many whole (peeled) garlic cloves as you like.
- You may, at this point, add in a roasted red pepper if you like (I REALLY do). [If you don’t feel like roasting them yourself, Trader Joe’s has some inexpensive bottled ones that I stock up on for the winter months.]
- Puree until smooth. You will end up with a vibrantly colored and flavored, thick puree of wonderfulness.
When the soup is done, add in the pasta and salt and pepper to taste. You can add the pistou right then (I do), although if you are serving it immediately the traditional way is to serve soup and pistou separately, and each person adds their own pistou.When you pour the pistou out of the blender, scoop some of the soup cooking liquid out and slosh it around in the blender, then pout back in the soup pot. It helps to clean your blender out and ensures you don’t lose even a drop of that yummy pistou.
Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and crusty French bread. Voilá! Soupe will keep in the fridge for several days and gets better every day, in my opinion. This will be my lunch for the week!
- You can use leeks instead of or in addition to onions.
- My recipe calls for very little olive oil, but could certainly be added to the pistou.
- Feel free to omit or reduce the noodles and/or potatoes if watching carbs, but I would leave the beans in at all costs.
- You can add diced tomatoes to the soup but then I would probably omit the tomato in the pistou mixture.
- I have never tried corn or eggplant for this soup but they might be good – if you add them let me know how it turns out!
About soupe au pistou
Variations exist; most recipes I’ve seen do not call for the extra veggies in the puree (the puree can be simply tomato paste, basil, and garlic, and can also inclide more olive oil and Parmesan), but I add them because that is how I learned. In my opinion, any vegetable soup could become soupe au pistou as long as it incorporates some form of the flavorful basil puree.
One final note: in keeping with the “flavor” of this post, I should say that regular old pesto adds extra flavor to any soup! When you make your pesto, freeze it in an ice cube tray; once frozen, pop out the cubes and save in plastic bag in your freezer. The next time you make a soup, drop a cube or two in for instant oomph and basil-y goodness!