Vegetable Soup with Basil and Garlic
This simple and delicious vegetable soup is from the 1994 cookbook Backroad Bistros, Farmhouse Fare - A French Country Cookbook by Jane Sigal.
Jane is a “journalist, author, editor, recipe developer and teacher” who lived in France for 12 years and went to culinary school at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne. She has been a contributing editor at Food & Wine, the New York Times, Saveur, the Wall Street Journal, Fine Cooking and the list goes on.
Back in the 90’s when I lived in New York City with my wife Meg, I had the opportunity to cook with Jane at our downtown loft. If my memory is correct, Jane and I shopped for ingredients and then prepared an incredible Indian meal.
I know I have photos of the night but they are not digital and stored away in some box I haven’t opened in years. I definitely need to get all my photos scanned.
Jane’s recipe is called Soupe Au Pistou or translated to Vegetable Soup with Basil and Garlic. Pistou is a “puree of fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, Parmesan and olive oil. It’s sort of a French version of Italian pesto.
Besides being used as a condiment for this classic French vegetable soup, I like to serve it with roast chicken, spread it on French bread or add a couple of spoonfuls to pasta as a quick and easy sauce.
I already have a recipe for pistou here so it's not included in this recipe. You can make it ahead of time or while you are preparing the soup.
Soupe au Pistou - Vegetable Soup
- 1 cup dried white beans or two 15 ounce cans
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 12 cups water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- 3 leeks white and light green parts only
- 2 carrots peeled and diced
- 1 rib celery diced
- ½ pound zucchini diced
- ½ pound green beans cut into ⅜ inch pieces
- 2 potatoes peeled and diced
- ½ cup dried pasta small
Prepping the Beans
- If you are using dried beans, you need to soak them most of the day or overnight before starting this recipe. Once they have soaked for a minimum of 6 hours, drain them and put them in a large pot, cover with water and bring the water to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, drain, rinse and drain again.
- Put the beans back into the pot and once again cover them with cold water along with the fresh thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer the beans, uncovered for 1 to 1½ hours until tender.
- Jane says to add 1 teaspoon of salt toward the end of the cooking process. Drain the beans one more time and reserve until you about to serve the soup.
- If you are using canned beans, rinse them in a colander and reserve until ready to use.
Making the Soup
- With 30 minutes left to the simmering of the beans, add 12 cups water to another large pot and bring to a boil.
- Add a little salt, the olive oil and all the diced vegetables and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
- 15 minutes into cooking the vegetables, add the pasta and cook until soft.
- With just 5 minutes left to cooking the vegetables, add the reserved beans to heat up in the soup.
Finishing and Serving
- When the soup is done cooking, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Serve the soup in warmed bowls and either add a spoonful of pistou to each bowl or have it on the side and let your family and friends add the pistou themselves.