François de MélogueProvencal RecipesSoupTaste: Food & Drink

Fall Soup: Soupe au Pistou a Provencal Classic

No other soup, save for bouillabaisse which really can’t be called a soup, clearly defines Provence more aptly than Soupe au Pistou. It’s the edible history of the ‘arrière-pays’, or hinterlands of Provence, where farmers have long tended their fields of vegetables and fruits.

There are several versions of Soupe au Pistou ranging from ham and bean to purely vegetable. This one is based on what my maman taught me, though she would roll her eyes at the very thought of canned beans and San Marzano tomatoes. I find them to be suitable substitutes with little loss of quality or flavor.

Soupe au Pistou Provencal

Soupe au Pistou

This soup tastes better the next day after the ingredients have had a chance to get to know each other. Make both the soup and the pistou in advance that way when your guests arrive you can enjoy their company. See recipe note on making pistou.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 1 hr 18 mins
Course Soup
Cuisine French, Provencal
Servings 8 people

Ingredients
  

For the Soup:

  • 1 Onion chopped
  • 4 Carrots chopped
  • 1 leek chopped, washed
  • 4 cloves garlic mashed
  • 2 Zucchini chopped
  • 1/2 can San Marzano Tomatoes
  • 2 quarts Water
  • 1 can Great Northern Beans (similar to Cannellini beans)
  • 1 cup Green Beans chopped
  • 2 Potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 cup Vermicelli cooked
  • 1 cup Gruyère or Parmesan grated

For the Pistou:

  • 1 clove garlic peeled
  • 1 cup Shredded Parmesan
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 oz Fresh Basil

Instructions
 

For the Soup:

  • Heat olive oil in a large pot and lightly cook onion, carrots and leeks; about ten minutes.
  • Add garlic and zucchini and continue cooking till the vegetables are soft. Your kitchen will be filled with a beautiful scent that would make Marcel Pagnol smile.
  • Add tomatoes, water, beans, green beans, potatoes and bay leaf and simmer tenderly till everything is cooked, about thirty minutes.
  • Adjust seasonings with sea salt and black pepper. I recommend letting soup sit overnight to develop the flavors.

For the Pistou:

  • Put peeled garlic, shredded Parmesan, and olive oil into a food processor and puree until completely smooth.
  • Add basil and process till smooth and vibrant green.

When you are ready to eat:

  • Bring soup to a boil, then add the cooked vermicelli and ladle into a bowl.
  • Pass the pistou, grated cheese and some olive oil on the side.

Notes

I oscillate between using a mortar and pestle, which produces a nicer pesto, and being completely lazy and using a food processor. Whatever choice you make, do not use store bought pesto, it usually is god awful.
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Chef François de Mélogue

Chef François de Mélogue

François de Mélogue grew up in a very French household in Chicago. His earliest attempts at cookery began with the filleting of his sister’s goldfish at age two and a braised rabbit dish made with his pet rabbits by age seven. He eventually stopped cooking his pets and went to the highly esteemed New England Culinary Institute where he graduated top of his class in 1985.

Chef François de Mélogue has over 30 years of cross-cultural culinary experience and brings an impressive culinary history and a unique Mediterranean cooking style. After graduating top of his class from the notable New England Culinary Institute, Chef François began his career in a number of highly acclaimed kitchens across the country, including Chef Louis Szathmary’s restaurant The Bakery in Chicago, Old Drovers Inn, a Relais and Chateaux property in New York and Joel Robuchon Gastronomie restaurant in Paris, before opening award-winning restaurant Pili Pili in his hometown of Chicago, rated in the Top Ten new restaurants in the World by Food and Wine magazine in 2003.

While staging with Robuchon, Chef François began to shape his personal culinary philosophy of “Cuisine Actuelle,” which showcases the natural flavor in the ingredients used to create his dishes. In line with his belief that food should be prepared without unnecessary distractions or alterations, François creates honest, healthy and delicious cuisine that is approachable and always delightful. Chef François specializes in simply prepared Southern French-inspired cuisine enhanced by his appreciation and knowledge of fine wine, craft beer, charcuterie and cheese. He is a fervent student and strong advocate of regional French cuisines, specifically the rustic cuisines of Lyon and Provence. With wife Lisa, they conduct personalized, insider gastronomic tours of Burgundy/Lyon, Provence and the Pacific Northwest.

Chef François resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife Lisa and seven-year-old son Beaumont, who has proclaimed himself the family saucier. He has written his first cookbook about Provence, entitled Cuisine of the Sun: A Ray of Sunshine on Your Plate, and works for Foods in Season, America’s foremost foraging company specializing in hyper-seasonal, wild foraged and fished foods from the Pacific Northwest.

Chef François' latest publication French Cooking for Beginners: 75+ Classic Recipes to Cook Like a Parisian takes you on a culinary journey well beyond the streets of Paris.

Follow his blog Pistou and Pastis and Simple French Cooking both websites are filled with delicious recipes and beautiful photos.

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