Last updated on August 7th, 2015
Yesterday, because my basil plants were in dire need of a haircut, I decided to make Soupe au Pistou. It’s a French vegetable soup that features fresh, garlicky pesto. It’s easy to make. It’s beautiful to behold. And it’s powerfully delicious!
You can make Soupe au Pistou from any veggies you happen to have on hand. Just keep in mind that every green bean, carrot, and what-have-you must be cut into 1/2-inch pieces. This way, each spoonful of soup will contain a little of each ingredient.
In Provence, where this soup was first created, pesto is traditionally stirred into the pot after cooking is complete. It’s an unusual pesto, too, since it contains a peeled and seeded tomato, but no nuts.
True Confession: I’m a culinary anarchist! As proof, I omit the pesto’s required tomato. Furthermore, instead of stirring the pesto into the pot, I float a spoonful atop each serving. It makes a shimmering green crown.
If you are French, I hope you’ll forgive my blasphemous ways.
Here’s the step-by-step:
First, grab 2 large (or 3 medium) leeks…
And cut the white and tender green parts into lengthwise strips. Then slice the strips crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.
Note: Not sure how to clean leeks? Check out this nifty tutorial.
Next, obtain a handful of green beans…
And give the best bean to your best friend.
Lily the Beagle is currently dieting. Check out her weight-loss plan.
Trim off stems, and then cut the beans into 1/2-inch pieces.
You can use as many or as few veggies as you like. I cut all of the following into — you guessed it — 1/2-inch pieces. And boy is my knife tired!
which are easy to dice if you first cut them lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips, and then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces…
1 large, peeled boiling potato…
And 3 fat cloves of garlic. You don’t have to cut the garlic into any specific size. Just chop it up.
Well. That’s enough slicing and dicing for now. Let’s assemble the soup!
Tip some olive oil into a big soup pot or Dutch oven…
And add the diced veggies. Stir to mix.
Then stir in 1 teaspoon kosher salt, several grinds of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves.
Cover the pot, and let the veggies steam over medium heat for 15 minutes.
Add 6 cups water, and bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Then lower the flame and let the soup simmer quietly, covered, until the veggies are perfectly tender — 20-30 minutes.
Then rinse and drain 2 cups of canned cannellini beans, and gently stir them into the soup. Or, add some cooked rice or pasta shells. There are no rules for the starchy addition.
While the soup is simmering, we can prepare the pesto:
Grab some fresh, fragrant basil from the garden, and pluck the leaves from the stems. The leaves should measure 2 cups when gently pressed down.
Drop the leaves into the bowl of your food processor, and add 1 large, peeled garlic clove.
Also add a pinch of salt, and a big handful of shredded (or grated) Parmesan cheese.
With the machine running, slowly add olive oil through the feed tube. Use enough oil to achieve the consistency you want — about 1/4 cup.
Put the finished pesto in a cup or bowl.
And by the way, you might want to double or even triple the pesto proportions. Pesto is the secret ingredient that gives this soup its sexy reputation.
To serve, ladle some veggies and broth into a bowl…
And float a dollop of pesto on top.
If you wish, you can arrange 3 or 4 small croutons around the pesto-garnish.
Finish with a light sprinkling of finely-grated Parmesan cheese. Pass extra pesto at the table.
Bon appetit, baby.
In the comments field below, let me know if you might try this soup. Again, you don’t have to use my list of vegetables. Use whatever your garden, farmers’ market, or grocery store can provide.
You probably don’t need a printable recipe, but I’ll offer you one anyway:
Vegetable soup and pesto -- what's not to love?
- 2 large or 3 medium leeks
- 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
- 3 fat carrots, peeled if not organic
- 2 or 3 medium fennel "bulbs"
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 large, peeled boiling potato (such as 'Yukon Gold' or 'Red Norland')
- 3 fat cloves of garlic (roughly chop these)
- Seasonings - 1 teaspoon each kosher salt and dried thyme, plus several grinds of black pepper
- 6 cups water
- 2 cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- Olive oil -- about 3 tablespoons
- 2 cups lightly-pressed basil leaves
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 1 cup shredded or grated Parmesan
- Pinch of salt
- Olive oil - about 1/4 cup
- Small croutons, and a dusting of finely-grated Parmesan for each serving
- Dice all vegetables into 1/2-inch pieces.
- Set a 5-quart or larger soup pot or Dutch oven over a medium flame. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, then add the vegetables and seasonings. Stir thoroughly to mix and coat. Cover the pot, and let the vegetables steam for 15 minutes.
- Add 6 cups water to the pot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Then lower the heat, cover the pot, and let simmer quietly until the vegetables are perfectly tender -- 20 to 30 minutes. Taste carefully to correct seasonings. Stir in the canned beans.
- While the soup is simmering, make the pesto. Put the basil leaves, garlic, cheese, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Turn the machine on, and slowly add enough olive oil to achieve the consistency you want.
- To serve, ladle the soup in bowls. Top each serving with a dollop of pesto, a few croutons, and a sprinkling of finely-grated Parmesan.
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If you are serving Soupe au Pistou for dinner, consider one of the following for dessert:
Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Fresh Mint
Spiced Plum Cake
French Blueberry Galette
Absolutely. Easy. Versatile. Yummy looking! I will be trying this.
I have been freezing beets raw and juicing them in the winter, they taste just like fresh from the garden, I also freeze my over size cucumbers to add to my raw juicing.
I can’t wait to try this, Kevin! My garden is currently exploding with all of these veggies. I am vegan, and I “veganize” a lot of your recipes with great success. I even take the resulting dishes to my monthly vegan potlucks where they meet with rave review. Thanks for this, and the many others.
Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says
Something else to put pesto on!
Hooray. This soup looks enticing.
Are you worried Lily will help herself to snacks from the bean patch in the garden?
She’s so cute I can’t imagine her misbehaving at all.
Soon we’ll be freezing our pole beans and bush beans according to your suggestions from summers past. Still love that straw trick.
Love this recipe; I will have to omit the fennel, since they are currently $3 @ bulb and I didn’t grow any (next year for sure!) My darling doggie is on a maintenance diet, and loves veggies, too. He’s learned to very carefully pick cherry and grape tomatoes for his snack–maybe bush beans are next. No pole beans, though, since he’s mostly dachshund.
This looks very delicious. I love cooking with leeks and will try this recipe for sure. Thanks, Kevin!
Somehow I am always ‘afraid’ to add a raw fennel to my cooking.
I’ve never tried any dish with fennel, but I know the strong licorice taste it has – wouldn’t fennel overpower the rest of the veggies in that dish?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Kate and Joanna — You don’t have to use fennel in this soup. Just make up the difference by adding another vegetable. Or, use more carrots, leeks, zucchini, and…Enjoy!
Brenda Johnson says
It IS delicious!!!! I was treated to a heaping bowl of this… and it’s SOOOO good!!!! Loaded with fresh veggies and even fresher taste! So flavorful I couldn’t believe there was no chicken stock in it!!! Just super healthy vegetables (perfectly diced might I add…) – the pesto and cheese rocket this right off the yum chart!!!! Thanks for sharing Kevin!!!
Joanna- I am not a licorice fan… fennel becomes quite sweet and mild when cooked, and plays well with the other veggies in the soup pool! I would encourage you to try it!!
Hi Kevin…..You make these recipes so easy to understand and the end product looks delicious and one to file in my recipe box. Thanks again!!
Pat Nupp says
Farmers Market just got put on the top of my agenda. This just sounds wonderful…I have some of these veggies growing in my garden but will pick up the missing ones tomorrow. Thank you for sharing this. I love your site.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Pat Nupp — Nice to meet you!
I can’t wait to try this!
Carolyn Contois says
I think this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!….(I don’t get out much)
Janet Livesay says
Suddenly too many vegetables!. This is the answer..Of course I’ll make it.
Carol Samsel says
Been in a soup kind of mood for a couple of days and this sounds like it will fit the bill 🙂
Will I try it ? Does it have basil in it ? I will roll in it ! I also have a basil abodanza now so any reason to use it is a good one. I have loved every recipe you’re offered .Thanks Kevin
I wish I had some of this soup simmering on the stove right now. I certainly have enough basil to make the pesto. Cabbage did well for me this year and potatoes. Other things have not done so good and my space is small compared to some. I do think I will try this however; especially as I am more of a vegan than a carnivore. Thank you for this idea Kevin.
Patricia C. says
So good to see a soup recipe this time of year. I begin craving soups and more wintery foods about now. Just like the first burger of the summer tastes fantastic, the first soup of the summer harvest is heavenly. Also, I would never have thought of putting pesto on top of the soup, but looks awesome and I can almost taste it!
I always look forward to your newsletter, like opening a favorite magazine. I usually make a cup of tea to savor both the tea and your articles together! Thanks!
Brenda Johnson – that gets my vote! 🙂
I was just feeling a craving for a rich but meatless vegetable dish, and here it is! I will definitely try it.
Catharine R. says
Kevin, I made this soup today, and it is AMAZING. I used the veggies on your list, and they practically filled my 5-quart pot. But they reduced after the 15 minute steam, so there was plenty of room to add the 6 cups of water. This recipe is a keeper! It was also a good excuse to use a bunch of the basil in my garden! So good!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Patricia C – I’m with you. Bring on the soup!
Hi Catharine R – So glad you liked this version of Soupe au Pistou!
Rae Fuller says
Kevin, when I saw Soupe au Pistou in your newsletter today, I almost cried. You see, I live in NYC now, but was raised in Paris. So this soup(e) brings back many fond memories for me!!! Will make a pot on Saturday, after I visit the farmers market in Union Square.
I will try this but maybe with half the fennel. I’ve never cooked with fennel before!
I must make this!!
This soup looks fabulous, I make soup weekly and love this French pesto version! Thank you for the tutorials, they are so fun! Next I am checking out Lily’s diet, I need inspiration there too!
I will absolutely try this! I might vary the vegetables …. my garden overfloweth! One question….how is the publishing of the new cookbook coming? I really want all of these recipes in one place! Thanks for the great blog…I look forward to it each week!
I don’t have a food processor, so will mincing the basil and garlic work ok?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Marie – What a sweet comment. So glad this recipe brought back memories of France for you.
Hi selma – My agent sent out the cookbook proposal to publishers. Still waiting for word…
Hi Victoria – Mincing won’t work for pesto. But short of a food processor, you could use an electric blender. Or a mortar and pestle. Already-made pesto from the supermarket is another option, but it won’t resemble the Provencal version.
Goodness this looks wonderful! Yum!
Fantabulous!! (Opps, my English prof always said I had a way with words) great soup…and I really like the nut free pesto. Love your creativity in the kitchen. Please keep it coming. I always wait for your emails.
Thank you for sharing your newsletter and the lovely charm that comes with reading each one.
I am a practitioner of Macrobiotic’s, and even though, I don’t use all your suggestions, a recipe like this one is so user friendly. I love your garden, I love your wisdom and I love your simplicity in describing everything from food to home.
Do you have any suggestions for this Vegan,? a little something that could replace the cheese in the pesto?
I also only use Suzanne’s Brown Rice Syrup in my desserts ,and have yet to test out some of your recipes using it. So many recipes….so little time. Thank you again Kevin, keep on sharing and writing, its really so enjoyable.
Julie R says
This soup and pesto look like winners. I might even make this pesto by itself, and add it to a veggie and pita bread wrap sandwich. Thanks for all of the great recipes, as I am always on the hunt for a great veggie recipe.
I made this yesterday!!! Oh my goodness! I sent a batch to my best friend-he loves me even more now than he did before! thank you for sharing your version of this classic!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Cynthia – Nice to read that you and your friend enjoyed the soup!
Jennifer and Tessa says
My 13 year old committed the unspeakable horror of surreptitiously using her phone….the “punishment”….making us dinner! She opted to make this soup along with your tomato pie and I have to say it was absolutely sensational with kale thrown in, and the pie was to die for….Kevin….thank you for all of your recipes. So very special when most of the ingredients came from either our garden or the local farmers market. Look forward to each week’s post. You have a true gift making cooking accessible to ALL with amazing results. Thank you!!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Jennifer and Tessa – So glad you liked the soup and the tomato pie!
Jennifer and Tessa says
we loved it and it had too much fun making to have it be used as “punishment”! have to come up with better parenting skills!!
Made this soup at our lake house last week and just as it was finishing more company arrived. So we added two quarts of home canned tomatoes and some more water, and it got rave reviews! Thanks for another great recipe.
I was wondering if this soup freezes well? I know you can freeze the pesto. Sounds delicious and healthy.
For those wondering about how to make the pesto vegan, I’ve seen some good vegan pesto recipes that substitute nutritional yeast for the parmesan. I think it has a strong enough “cheesy”/savory flavor that it would work well. I plan to try this myself because this soup looks amazing and I think the pesto is a big part of what makes it special.
CSA season has just started in Southwestern Ontario and this recipe is perfect for the produce I bring home. Thank you, sounds delicious! My CSA even has a wood fired oven, so the croutons are going to be spectacular.