2000s Recipes + Menus

Vegetable Soup with Basil and Garlic Sauce (Soupe au Pistou)

Serves6 to 8 (makes about 16 cups)
  • Active time:40 min
  • Start to finish:1 hr
May 2001
Our soupe au pistou, a Provençal celebration of vegetables, is light and brothy but chock-full of flavor. We’ve added a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind—an old Italian trick that adds depth. But what makes this soup is the pistou that’s stirred in before serving—it really packs a punch. All you need to make it supper-in-a-bowl is a loaf of crusty bread.

For soup

  • 1 small fennel bulb (sometimes called anise)
  • 1/4 lb sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 small cabbage, cored and chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of rind cut from a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
  • 2 small yellow summer squash or zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium boiling potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf (not California)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 9 cups water
  • 1 (10-oz) package frozen baby lima beans
  • 1/2 lb haricots verts or other thin green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 (15- to 19-oz) can cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 5 oz baby spinach (5 cups)

For pistou

  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 oz grated parmesan (1/3 cup)

Make soup:

  • Cut fennel stalks flush with bulb, discarding them, and trim off any tough outer layers from bulb. Chop fennel into 1/2-inch pieces.
  • Cook pancetta in oil in a 7- to 9-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in fennel, onion, turnip, carrots, and cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is wilted, 5 to 7 minutes. Add cheese rind, squash, potato, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, salt, and water and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Add lima beans, green beans, and cannellini and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Discard cheese rind, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf. Stir in spinach and season with salt and pepper.

Make pistou while soup is simmering:

  • Mince and mash garlic to a paste with salt (or pound with a mortar and pestle). Blend with basil in a food processor until basil is finely chopped. Add oil and cheese and purée.
  • Top servings with a spoonful of pistou, then stir.
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