Try a classic French soup celebrating seasonal vegetables
photo by: Carl Tremblay/America's Test Kitchen via AP
Highlighting the fresh flavors of Provencal cuisine, soupe au pistou is a classic French soup composed of seasonal vegetables, creamy white beans and fragrant herbs.
Celebrating colorful, early-summer produce, this soup needed to be chock-full of vegetables and simple to prepare. Leeks, green beans, and zucchini all made the cut; we liked their summery flavors and varying shades of green.
Traditional recipes use water for the base, but supplementing the water with vegetable broth promised a more rounded, flavorful base; we cooked orecchiette directly in the broth so that the starch from the pasta would give it more body.
Canned white beans tasted great and were far more convenient than long-soaking dried beans. This soup is always served with a dollop of pistou, France’s answer to pesto, and to make ours we simply whirled basil, Parmesan, olive oil, and garlic in a food processor.
If you cannot find haricots verts (thin green beans), substitute regular green beans and cook them for an extra minute or two. You can substitute small shells or ditalini for the orecchiette (the cooking times may vary slightly). Serve with crusty bread.
PROVENCAL VEGETABLE SOUP
Start to finish: 45 minutes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (½ cup)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced ½ inch thick, and washed thoroughly
1 celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
1/2 cup orecchiette
8 ounces haricots verts, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or navy beans, rinsed
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large tomato, cored, seeded, and chopped
For the pistou: Process all ingredients in food processor until smooth, about 15 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. (Pistou can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours.)
For the soup: Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add leek, celery, carrot, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and water and bring to simmer.
Stir in pasta and simmer until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in haricots verts and simmer until bright green but still crunchy, about 3 minutes. Stir in cannellini beans, zucchini, and tomato and simmer until pasta and vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, topping individual portions with pistou.