Soupe au Pistou – Fresh Vegetable Soup

IMG_1377Okay, so it is a pretty gloomy day over in France as the riders make their way through to Cherbourg, and fairly similar to the weather in Melbourne on this wintery Sunday.

A perfect excuse to whip up a hearty Provencale classic – Soup au Pistou.  This is essentially a fresh vegetable soup, made in true peasant style with whatever vegetables are on hand.  However the key to this soup is the pistou.  Where Italians will talk about pesto, the French are all about pistou.  Similar, yet different to pesto in that it does not contain any pinenuts.

Many recipes exist for Soupe au Pistou.  Some include tomatoes, some do not, some include noodles, and others include rice, and traditionally this soup was amde simply with water not stock.  However you make it, it is the pistou that brings the dish together and elevates it into something really special.  A zesty, flavour packed soup that leaves you feeling happy with life – even on dreary days such as these.

This recipe is roughly adapted from David Lebovitz – and based on what I had to hand this afternoon.


For the soup:

  • 2 leeks, rinsed and finely sliced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 parsnip, diced
  • 1 turnip, diced
  • 1 can of cannelini beans (or used dried and soak overnight, before cooking until tender and commencing with the recipe)
  • About 1 cup of peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup cooked chicken (I had some left over roasted chicken I decided make use of, but not essential to the recipe)2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups of chicken stock and 2 cups water
  • About 100g of dried pasta or rice (I used alphabet spaghetti to temp the children!)
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme (my lemon thyme was looking a little healthier in the garden so I used that instead!)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed.
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the pistou:

  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 cups roughly torn basil (about 2 bunches)
  • 1 small peeled and deseeded tomato (traditional, but optional)1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 45g parmesan cheese, finely grated

How to do it:

IMG_1349 Add a little olive oil to a large stock pot and add the sliced leek, garlic, bay leaves, beans and diced carrot, turnip and parsnip.  Sweat these over a medium heat to extract maximum flavour for your soup.



IMG_1352When the vegetables are softened, add the chicken if you are using it and the stock before topping up with water as needed.  Season well with salt and pepper and cover to simmer until the vegetables are cooked.



IMG_1359While the soup is cooking, make you pistou.  You can use a blender or a mortar and pestle depending on what is easiest for you.  Start by pulverising the garlic with a decent pinch of salt.  Then add in the torn basil leaves and pound until liquified.  Add the tomato as per tradition, along with the cheese and oil and pound until a thickish paste forms and the aromas are filling your senses…


IMG_1353In the last five or so minutes of cooking, add your pasta  and cook until tender. I love the retro feel of this alpha spaghetti!




IMG_1377Serve your Soup au Pistou with a healthy dollop of pistou – waiting to be stirred through by your lucky dinner companion.