Soupe au Pistou From Jody Williams

July  7, 2020
Photo by Kristen Miglore
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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Soupe au Pistou From Jody Williams
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 8
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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.

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