21 Mar Soupe au Pistou


Soupe au Pistou

21 March 2020

PREP. TIME: 20 MIN   -   COOK TIME: 40 MIN   -   SERVES: 6

This popular, perfectly delicious, aromatic soup is enjoyed in France and in our house for that matter throughout the whole of summer - a little before and a little after too.  You will be able to find all of the ingredients relatively easily.  Shop for it - cook it - and I guarantee it will bring joy to your table.  It is a recipe I found in the weekend papers sometime in the 1990s.  It was written by Ian Parmenter who I adored for his no - nonsense approach to French cooking.  It has remained much in demand family fare in our house hold ever since.  

This recipe is fun to prepare with someone else.  One of you gets to supervise the pot while the other chops away.  It is also much easier to make the pistou with another person carefully pouring the olive in as you whisk it into a gorgeous emulsion. Natter as you do so, pour a glass of wine and play some great music.  

Recipe Template

Soupe au Pistou is a wonderfully aromatic, light, vegetable soup that hails from France.  The Pistou sauce is what the Italians will call Pesto (without the pinenuts), and like pesto - pistou will brown if left exposed to air.  Be sure to prepare it just before serving. Store any leftover pistou in a jar covered with olive oil. It will probably still discolour but is wonderful added to soup or pasta over the next few days.

For an attractive - relatively clear soup - use only the freshest ingredients and and cut each of the vegetables into even size dice.  Be sure to allow each vegetable to soften before adding the next one. 

This is especially good when served with rounds of toasted bread with melted cheese and a slither of anchovy on top.  Imagine!!


1 large onion , sliced into rings

2 leeks, washed well and the white section sliced into rings

2 cloves garlic, peeled and kept whole

2 carrots, washed and peeled and cut into small dice

2 sticks celery, washed and cut into small dice

1 zucchini, washed, and cut into small dice - do not peel

1 potatoe, washed, peeled and cut into cubes

3 fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped roughly

A stem of oregano or basil

1 hand full of fresh green beans, top and tailed and chopped into bite size pieces

1 cup cooked small pasta shapes such as Risoni or Stars or crushed vermicelli

1 - 2 cups of  cooked white beans OR a 400g can white beans, drained and rinsed

Extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper


3 cloves garlic

1 cup torn basil leaves

1 egg yolk

1/2 cup olive oil

100 g grated parmesan or Gruyere cheese


Chopping board; Paring knife; Vegetable peeler; 4 - 6 litre Soup pot - large enough to hold all of the ingredients; Mortar and Pestle; Cheese Grater; Measuring cup


To Make the Soup:

Step 1.

Prepare the ingredients as detailed in the list of ingredients above

Step 2.

In a heavy saucepan or stock pot, heat the olive oil, gently cook the onion, whole garlic and the leeks with a little salt.  Continue  to cook until they soften (5 - 10minutes).  Do not allow the vegetables to colour.

3. Add the carrots and celery and cook for about 5 mins

4. Add the zucchini and cook for about 3 minutes until softened

5. Add the chopped tomato and a sprinkle of dried oregano or a stem of fresh basil or oregano. Cook until the tomato begins to break down.

6. Cover the ingredients with cold water and add the potato

7. Bring the water to a gentle simmer and continue cooking uncovered until the potatoes are barely cooked.

8. Add the beans and cook until tender

8. Check seasoning and add the cooked pasta if using 

5. Just before serving add the drained cooked or tinned white beans

To Make the Pistou:

Step 1. Pound the basil and garlic  with a teaspoon of salt - using a mortar and pestle

Step 2. Add the egg yolk and whisk to stiffen a little

Step 3. Gradually stir in the olive oil, starting a few drops at a time, incorporating each drop as you go - you are trying to make a mayonnaise. If it splits or is too runny - you can resurrect it by cracking an egg yolk into a clean bowl, whisking it to stiffen and gradually incorporate the mixture you have already made - just a little at a time.

Step 4. Add the grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese

To Serve:

Spoon a dollop of the Pistou in the base of each soup bowl, pour the hot soup over.

Savour the aroma, stir up well and eat with enthusiasm (very Ian Parmenter!!).


Recipe by Ian Parmenter

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