Step 1In a blender, process the basil, garlic and three-fourths cup olive oil on high for about 30 seconds. For the pesto, add the pine nuts. Transfer to a bowl. Add one-half cup olive oil and the cheese and stir to combine. This makes about 3/4 cup pistou, and slightly more pesto. To make a small amount of pistou or pesto, grind the ingredients by hand in a mortar with a pestle.
Step 1In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, cook one of the meats in your fat of choice along with the slow-cooking vegetables (except the beans, which, if you are using, are added along with the liquid) for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft and shiny.
Step 2Add the liquid or broth to cover and the dried beans (if using), nestle the bouquet garni in the middle of the pot, and simmer gently, partially covered, until the vegetables and beans are almost tender, about 5 minutes with vegetables only, slightly more if using beans. Add any starch, cook until al dente, about 5 minutes, and then add whatever green vegetables you like and simmer until they are vibrant in color and crisp-tender. This makes about 3 quarts of soup.
Step 3Finally, decide on the finish: If you are using garlic or herbs, whisk them into the soup. If you are using pesto or pistou, whisk a bit of it into the soup and pass the rest at the table.