Soupe Au Pistou (But With Pesto)
Soupe au pistou is the legendary minestrone-style soup from Provence that champions seasonal vegetables. The "pistou" part of its name is the sauce that chefs dollop on top just before serving. It's like pesto, but without the pine nuts and with a lot more garlic. Here, we're shamelessly using the real deal.
Just like bouillabaisse and other "no recipe recipes", with this soup you are actively encouraged to freestyle. Provençal chefs simply use whatever ingredients are in abundance that day. In summer they may use tomatoes, courgettes and broad beans. In winter it could be carrots, turnips and haricot beans.
There are, however, a couple of things that are non-negotiable... the soup must be packed full of vegetables and must contain some kind of bean. We reckon the soup is so intrinsically healthy that we feel no guilt serving it with both pasta and crusty, buttered sourdough.
Macaroni, vermicelli and orzo are popular pasta shapes to use in soups, but our absolute favourite is a very small, round shaped pasta from Sardinia called Frègula Sarda. These lightly toasted nuggets resemble Arabic couscous and have a nutty flavour and distinctive golden-brown colour.
Ingredients for two
This is a guide only. Use whatever vegetables you have available. At the very least though, try to use a balance of sweet and savoury vegetables.
Chop the carrot and courgette into equal size chunks, top and tail the green beans, mince the garlic and set aside.
Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water, peel, de-seed, crush and set aside.
Slice the onion and soften in plenty of olive oil over a medium-low heat until fragrant but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, carrot, courgette, beans and tomato to the pan and continue to fry very gently until the veggies are softened but not mushy.
Add the bay leaf and just enough water to cover the vegetables. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then add the pasta and cook for a further 10 minutes (or according to pack instructions).
When the pasta is al dente, remove the bay, season the soup with salt and pepper and divide into bowls. Dollop a generous amount of pesto on top just before serving, leaving your guest to decide whether they stir it into the soup or keep it separate.
Make sure you have some extra pesto to hand as your guests will almost certainly want to add more as they go.