Pistou, popular in southern France, is very similar to Italian pesto, although it typically doesn’t contain the pine nuts that are popular in the Italian version. You can substitute prepared pesto for the pistou in this soup if you like.
For the pistou:
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves
- 1/4 tsp. coarse sea salt
- 1 cup (1 oz./ 30 g) fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./ 80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
For the minestrone:
- 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) chicken broth
- 3 small boiling potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tsp. minced fresh savory (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 large zucchini, diced
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 lb. (250 g) young, slender green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces
- 1 lb. (500 g) fresh cranberry beans in the pod, shelled, or 1 cup (7 oz./220 g) canned butter beans
- 1/2 cup (3 oz./90 g) spaghetti broken into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces
To make the pistou, in a blender, combine the garlic, salt and basil and process until a paste forms. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, processing until the mixture is thick and well combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.)
In a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, combine the broth and 6 cups (48 fl. oz./1.5 l) water. Bring to a boil, then add the potatoes, carrots, thyme, savory, 2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the carrots are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.
Add the zucchini, onion, green beans and shelling beans and cook until the shelling beans are tender to the bite, 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the spaghetti and cook according to the package instructions until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), 10 to 11 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Stir 2 Tbs. of the pistou into the soup.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve, passing the remaining pistou at the table.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2011)