Soupe au Pistou
Mimi Thorisson shares this recipe in her book A Kitchen in France, where she explains that this Provençal soup is really just the French version of minestrone, and that the pistou, or pesto, that is stirred in at the end is also borrowed from their Italian neighbors. She continues, “Provençal pesto is usually made without pine nuts, and some versions add tomatoes to the mix, which I like. Leftover pistou is lovely on grilled bread with aperitifs.”
For the soup:
- 8 oz. (250 g) dried white beans, rinsed and soaked in water to cover overnight
- 8 oz. (250 g) dried kidney beans, rinsed and soaked in water to cover overnight
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 oz. (250 g) haricots verts, cut into 3/8-inch (1-cm) pieces
- 4 tomatoes, peeled, halved, seeded and diced
- 3 zucchini, diced
- 3 onions, thinly sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 leek, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
- 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 6 cups (1.5 l) water
- A few sprigs fresh thyme
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup (4 1/2 oz./140 g) small elbow macaroni
For the pistou:
- Leaves from 2 bunches fresh basil, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves
- 5 Tbs. (75 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2/3 cup (2 oz./60 g) grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 ripe tomato, peeled, halved, seeded and diced
Drain the white and kidney beans and put them in a large saucepan. Add the bay leaf and enough water to cover the beans by 3 inches (7.5 cm). Bring to a simmer, and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain and set aside.
In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the haricots verts, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, carrots, leek and garlic and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the water and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the macaroni and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.
While the pasta is cooking, make the pistou. Combine the basil and garlic in a mortar and pound to a paste. Gradually add the olive oil, Parmesan, and coarse salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the tomato.
Add the cooked beans to the soup. Season with fine sea salt.
Ladle the soup into bowls and add a spoon of pistou to each. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately. Serves 6.
Adapted from A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse, by Mimi Thorisson (Clarkson Potter, 2014)