Soupe Au Pistou

Makes 8 servings
  • Active time: 1 1/4 hr
    Total time: 2 1/4 hr (includes making pistou, but using canned beans)
Chockablock with fresh vegetables, this classic Provençal soup gets a jolt of fresh herbal flavor from a dollop of pistou, which is basically a basil pesto made without nuts. The resulting soup is special enough to be the main course of a lunch or supper with friends.

This recipe was originally published as part of Sally Darr's Julia Child and Me.
Published in Gourmet Live 08.15.12


  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds large onions (3 to 4), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 large leek (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled (see Cooks' Notes) and diced
  • 2 large sprigs each of sage, parsley, and thyme, tied together with kitchen string
  • 2 cups cooked white beans (Great Northern, if cooking from scratch; see Cooks' Notes) or a 19-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large russet (baking) potatoes, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/3 inch thick
  • 12 cups boiling water
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 small zucchini, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 small yellow squash, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium white turnip, quartered lengthwise, then sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen green peas OR 1 cup 1/2-inch pieces green beans, or a mixture of the two
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • Pistou; at least 1/2 cup additional Parmigiano-Reggiano


  • Heat olive oil in a 6-quart wide heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers, and cook sliced onions, stirring occasionally, until lightly colored, about 15 minutes.
  • Add leek and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes.
  • Add diced tomatoes and herb bunch and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down, 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Add white beans and potatoes and pour in the boiling-hot water, stirring. Bring soup to a simmer, and simmer it, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 40 minutes.
  • Add carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, and turnip and continue to simmer soup, uncovered, 15 minutes.
  • Add peas or green beans and simmer soup, uncovered, 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.
  • To serve, ladle hot soup into bowls and add about 1 tablespoon each of pistou and additional Parmigiano-Reggiano to each bowl just before serving.


  • To peel tomatoes, bring a 5-quart pot of water to a boil. Score the skin with an X on bottom of each tomato and blanch tomatoes in boiling water for 15 seconds. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl of ice water, then peel, beginning with loosened skin at the X.
  • To cook dried white beans—such as Great Northern—from scratch, pick them over, tossing out any little pebbles, and soak them in plenty of water overnight. Drain the water, and rinse the beans well, then put them in a saucepan with enough water to cover them by a couple of inches. Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer the beans, partially covered, until tender, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour or more, depending on the age of the beans (older ones take longer). Season with salt. To end up with at least 2 cups cooked beans, start with about 3/4 cup dried beans.
This recipe has not been tested in the Gourmet Live kitchens.
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