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Soups, Vegetarian

Provencal Soupe au Pistou

Provencal Soupe au Pistou
Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

I have never met a Mediterranean home cook who did not impress me with her soups. When I lived in France, I spent a fair amount of time at Domaine Tempier, a winery in Bandol that is famous for its ... Read more

Total time: 2 1/2 hours plus 6 hours standing | Serves 10 to 12


  • 2 to 4 large cloves garlic
  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • Salt
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 1 small tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped, optional
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, or a mixture of Gruyere and Parmesan

Step 1To make the pistou in a food processor, turn on a processor and drop in the garlic. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl, add the basil and salt to taste (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon) and process until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides once more and turn on the machine. Drizzle in the oil with the machine running, then drop in the tomato if using. Process to a paste. Taste and add more salt, if necessary. Stir in the Parmesan. To make the pistou in a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with the salt to a paste. Add the basil, a handful at a time, and pound and grind the basil to a paste. Add the optional tomato and work to a paste with the basil. Drop by drop, work in the olive oil. Stir in the cheese.


  • 1 cup white beans, soaked 6 hours or overnight in 1 quart water, then drained
  • 4 quarts water, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 to 8 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed, divided
  • A bouquet garni made with a few sprigs each thyme and parsley, a Parmesan rind and a bay leaf, wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with string
  • 1/2 pound green beans or 1/4 pound green beans and 1/4 pound yellow wax beans, trimmed and broken into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups), divided
  • 2 zucchini (about 1/2 pound), diced, divided
  • 1 pound fresh cranberry beans, shelled
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 turnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 pound boiling potatoes, diced
  • 1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 1 (14-ounce) can, with liquid
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup pasta, such as macaroni or small shells
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Gruyere, for sprinkling

Step 1Combine the drained white beans and 2 quarts water, and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam, then add the onion, 2 garlic cloves and the bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 1 hour.

Step 2Add the remaining 2 quarts water, the remaining garlic, half the green beans, half the zucchini, the cranberry beans, carrots, celery, leeks, turnips, potatoes and tomatoes and their liquid to the pot and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste (be generous), reduce the heat, cover and simmer 1 hour. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Step 3While the soup is simmering, blanch or steam the remaining green beans and zucchini until tender but bright, about 5 to 8 minutes, and set aside.

Step 4Add the pasta to the soup about 10 minutes before serving and simmer until cooked al dente. Add pepper, and taste and adjust the salt. Stir the blanched or steamed green vegetables into the soup and heat through.

Step 5To serve, either stir the Pistou into the pot, place a dollop on each bowl and stir in or pass the Pistou in a bowl and let people stir in their own. Pass additional Parmesan or Gruyere for sprinkling.

Note: If making the soup ahead, make through step 3, when you have simmered the vegetables for an hour. On the day you are serving, bring the soup to a simmer and proceed with preparing then adding the remaining green beans and zucchini.


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