Provençale Vegetable Soup (Soup au pistou)

03 July 2018

Provencale vegetable soup (soup au pistou)

My dream is that I celebrate the wealth of vegetables from my own garden through the year with an endless parade of delicious dishes designed to put them to best use. 

I am some way from the ideal. 

But I did get my first home-grown courgettes this week, and felt that there should be something to mark the occasion. I decided on this - a hearty soup that I’d never tried before, but could hardly fail to be delicious.

The main thing that makes this soup is the addition of the pistou - the blend of basil, parmesan, salt and garlic (plus, in my case, a tomato). The exact mix of the vegetables can alter. Whether you add tomatoes or not can differ. Whether you use stock or not is a point of some discussion. There’s a truly authentic answer to each. I did the other thing.

My soup making up to this point has tended to be exclusively blended soups - I like the satisfying richness of a soup that is the absolute essence of its principle ingredients. I’d never done soups where pasta was an element before. But there’s a first time even for that.

If you do what I did - and make more soup than you need for one meal - the trick is to freeze the soup base without the pistou. It’s definitely worth making that fresh, and adding that in each time.


Provençale Vegetable Soup (Soup au pistou)

You’ll have spotted that swapping out the chicken stock for vegetable stock will make this dish vegetarian. If you prefer, you can drop the stock all together and simply use water.

Serves: 4

1 x 400g tin tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 banana shallot, thinly sliced
1 litre chicken stock
500ml water
150g green beans, cut into 2cm lengths
3 small carrots, sliced
2 courgettes, trimmed and sliced
75g macaroni or other small pasta
1 x 400g can haricot beans
Salt and pepper

For the pistou

20g fresh basil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
50g parmesan, grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tomato, reserved from the tin above


Open the tin of tomatoes and remove one good-sized tomato to use with the pistou. Keep the rest in reserve.

Gently fry the shallot in the olive oil in a large, heavy-based pan until it has softened but not browned. Add the chicken stock and the water and bring to the boil. Cover, and allow to simmer for five minutes or so.

Add the green beans, courgettes, carrots, and the tin of tomatoes (minus that one tomato) and bring back to the boil. Season lightly, reduce the heat and simmer covered for around 45 minutes.

Stir in the pasta and the haricot beans, cover again and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the pistou.

Remove the basil leaves from their stalks, and blend together with the garlic, salt, tomato, parmesan cheese and the olive oil. It should be worked until it’s a relatively smooth paste.

Once the soup is cooked, serve in warmed bowls with a couple of spoonfuls of the pistou dropped into the centre for people to stir in themselves. Serve with some warm crusty bread, and it’ll be good times all round.

Food waste

If you make the quantities here, you’ll reduce food waste from any of the canned ingredients. Simply make the soup and then put additional portions into sealed containers to freeze. If you’re doing that, reduce the quantities for the pistou to match the number of servings, since that is better done from fresh.

If making pistou for soup that has been pre-frozen (so you won’t have a convenient extra tomato from a can), you can either leave the tomato out altogether (as some purists would say you should do anyway) or add a fresh tomato - preferably skinned.