Soupe au Pistou From Jody Williams

October 12, 2022
5 Ratings
Photo by Kristen Miglore
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

This soup breaks all the rules. And you still get a rich, summery vegetable soup all the same. This recipe is a great fridge clearer (and freezer stocker) for those last two carrots in the bag, that too-big zucchini, any random vegetables you've got.

In Buvette, Jody writes: “I allow the vegetables to change with the season and use leeks and favas in the spring insead of the green beans and zucchini of summer. Whatever vegetables you use, this soup is always made with water, and topped with an ample drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a generous spoonful of bright green basil pistou.”

A few tips: You will need a large stockpot, ideally holding 8 quarts or larger, for the full batch of soup. If all your pots are smaller, scale down the recipe to fit (it doesn’t need to be exact) or divide between two pots. This soup is a wonderful destination for any random vegetables you’ve got, so don’t feel wedded to the exact list here. Depending on the age of your dried beans, your soup may take longer than one hour (older beans take longer to rehydrate). Beyond that, you can cook this as long as you like to get the texture you’re looking for: Jody loves hers slow-cooked until it’s porridge-like; at the minimum 1 hour, mine has always been brothier. Both are good, as long as you taste and adjust the salt carefully at the end, and especially once the pistou, olive oil, and Parmesan are swirled in. If you’d like plenty of pistou, consider doubling that part of the recipe (leftovers can be used on pasta or anywhere you’d use a mellow pesto).

Recipe from Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food (Grand Central, April 2014).

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What You'll Need
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Soupe au Pistou From Jody Williams
  • 2 cups dried cranberry or cannellini beans (or a mix), soaked overnight and drained
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, including the light green stems, diced
  • one 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, seeded if you like and chopped
  • 6 large outer escarole leaves, torn into pieces (or another hardy green, like kale)
  • 1 large handful green beans, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • Pinch red chili flakes, plus more as needed
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  1. Place the soaked beans, all of the vegetables, the chili flakes, and 2 teaspoons of salt into a large soup pot. Cover with cold water, then add 2 additional cups of water.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat, and allow it to simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 hour, adding more water as the soup cooks if it gets too dry or too thick at any point. Season the soup to taste with additional salt and chili flakes, if necessary.
  3. Meanwhile, place the basil leaves in a mortar and use a pestle to crush them with 2 teaspoons of salt. Work in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the olive oil to make a coarse paste. Alternatively, you can pulse the basil, salt, and Parmigiano-Reggiano together in a food processor and stream in the olive oil to make the paste. Either way, season the pistou with additional salt, if necessary, and set it aside. A thin layer of olive oil poured on top will prevent the pistou from browning.
  4. Serve the soup hot, topped with a generous drizzle of olive oil, a big spoonful of the pistou, and a handful of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cathy Bilberry
    Cathy Bilberry
  • Teresa Wells
    Teresa Wells
  • Linda Ranger
    Linda Ranger
  • FrugalCat
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
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Recipe by: Genius Recipes

34 Reviews

Lisa L. February 17, 2021
I had high hopes for this recipe, but had to doctor it so much for it to have enough taste. Not worth it. I'd rather sweat vegetables in oil first and use broth. I still love watching Kristen and have a lot of her genius recipes in regular rotation.
Sarah J. September 11, 2020
This soup is so full of flavor, but my pistou was bitter. I've never had luck with homemade pesto. Does it need to be made with young early baby basil?
Cathy B. August 2, 2020
I made as written using the Instant Pot. I soaked the cranberry beans overnight and the soup needed only 10 minutes in the Instant Pot with a natural pressure release. It was a tasty summer soup!
Tessa M. August 2, 2020
Imma gonna make this tomorrow. but do I have to throw out the beans I have been soaking for about 2 weeks now? (I stuck it in the fridge the next day, having changed my mind about what I could cook on a 90 degree day. Have changed the water periodically but once I make a mistake, I compound it. Bad habit.) (I don't think the beans smell bad.) Can sub canned beans. THX
fishinwidow July 24, 2020
Made this almost as written - only changes were to use canned chickpeas and subbed cabbage for the escarole. Bonus was having leftover stock made from fresh Kansas sweet corn in my fridge to add to the broth. Served with homemade focaccia pulled from the freezer. Delicious!
tinyapartmentchef July 21, 2020
Great way to use up some beans and veggie odds and ends that I had laying around - very flexible and adaptable approach. I used dried cranberry beans, onions, scallions, potatoes, zucchini, canned tomatoes, frozen peas, kale and radish greens. I forgot to soak my beans so just cooked the soup a little longer. I was gifted some homemade pesto and spooned that in with a generous helping of Parmesan - both were critical to bring the flavor up a notch.
Teresa W. July 14, 2020
I loved this but I love most of Kristen’s genius. I added a parm rind and a bit of fish sauce. No celery but added garlic. I am tired of pandemic cooking and this was perfection to use lots of veg and be stress free and so delicious.
ChefGam July 15, 2020
I did exactly the same thing plus a red bell pepper, just bc it was in the fridge. Also, I used good store-bought pesto this time, but will go all out next time I make it. This is a great foundational recipe, easy to make your own.
Linda R. July 14, 2020
In honour of Bastille Day, I made this soup and the pistou. Delicious!
FrugalCat July 12, 2020
I have had pistou made with parsley instead of basil. Anyone else?
Kristen M. July 12, 2020
I haven't, but I think any fresh soft herb would be good!
Ellen D. February 18, 2021
Thanks for this tip! I have some parsley chilling in the fridge that is waiting for some food love.
Janet July 12, 2020
Awful video. Takes longer to watch it than to prep the soup.
ChefGam July 12, 2020
Seriously? Jody is talented chef who needs to care for her little one and work at the same time. Lightened up.
ChefGam July 12, 2020
I do apologize...for my typos!
Tim S. July 16, 2020
Really? Personally I love these "homemade" videos.
Question for you Janet: Why did you watch? You can always just read the Food 52 recipe and forgo the video.
[email protected] July 11, 2020
Am always looking for new-to-me recipes that pack in the vegetables, and this one is a gem!
I had a couple cans of cannellini beans, so I used those (thanks for ok’ing that in the video!). Because my husband and myself love the flavor of beans so much, I only cooked the soup with one can and puréed the other can in the blender before adding to the soup. This recipe is golden and the video is cute and helpful. I love all the new cuisine that Food52 is exposing me- while still keeping the recipes approachable and exciting! We each ate two bowls and immediately added this recipe to my collection!
Kristen M. July 12, 2020
Jeanne T. July 11, 2020
Just made this soup. I had some chicken broth left over from another project, so I used that up and made up the rest of the liquid with plain water. (I really did clean out my fridge to make this soup.) The soup was really good. The pistou made it special. Don't skip it.
Kristen M. July 12, 2020
Glad to hear it!
Sandra R. July 10, 2020
I made the soup as written with all the vegetables listed, and pre-soaked, Rancho Gordo, Christmas Lima beans. At 1.5 hours of low simmer, the beans were magnificent and the vegetables perfectly cooked. The "broth" was tasteless.
I added Parmesan rinds, tomato paste to the pesto and put it all in, saffron, Better than Bouillon chicken base, a couple of diced potatoes and 1/2 cup of small, Tubetti Rigati. It now has a great flavor and looks beautiful.
Kristen M. July 12, 2020
Thanks Sandra—I've found the broth definitely needs careful salting to taste to bring out its delicate flavor (or other seasonings—great improvising!). And the pistou, olive oil, and Parmesan really complete it.
Sandra R. July 10, 2020
I followed the directions exactly. I used Rancho Gordo, "Christmas Lima" beans, and all the ingredients listed. The beans were perfectly cooked as were the veges after a low simmer for 1.5 hours. With that said, the broth was tasteless!! I immediately berated myself for not making a classic French rendition that I have made numerous times. to remedy, I added Parmesan rinds, and tomato paste to the pesto ( which is a south of France kinda thing) which I then put in, some better than bouliion chicken flavor, saffron, and then what the heck: a diced potato and a 1/2 C of Tubetti Rigati pasta. It is now tasting delicious. I made a loaf of Foccacia to go with.
00000lll July 9, 2020
What a wonderful summer soup!... Vegetarian too and Vegan if you leave off the cheese- but why ??? I made same night as recipe came out so I had to use canned cannellini beans. I also forgot to buy the green beans when I was at the store. Not sure where all the flavor came from, but it was sure great! Thank-you!!
Kristen M. July 12, 2020
Glad it was a hit!
H23200 July 9, 2020
I know this is an obnoxious question, but do you think the soup would be ruined if I left out the beans and substituted a meat? My husband is not a fan, but think he would love the soup otherwise.
00000lll July 9, 2020
I was going to add chicken sausage but just stick with the recipe - no one with taste buds will miss the meat!
Kristen M. July 12, 2020
Definitely not ruined! This is a flexible format. But I would choose a flavorful meat, like the sausage suggested, or maybe chicken thighs. You could also swap in pasta or a grain for the beans instead.
H23200 July 13, 2020
Thanks! Used some chicken and it was delicious. Great recipe!
ChefGam July 9, 2020
Love your video!
Kristen M. July 12, 2020
Thank you!
Chrispy July 8, 2020
Looks great.
But, can we all just agree that soaking beans is entirely optional? Sure, you’ll need to precook them for awhile before adding the veg, but soaking not required.
Lynn July 9, 2020
Who’s we? Personally, I prefer soaking, so for me, it isn’t optional. Really not worth commenting about. It’s personal preference.
Kristen M. July 12, 2020
I agree, soaking isn't necessary! But it does mean that you can cook the soup more quickly.