Pistou Soup


This wholesome French stew, similar to Italian minestrone, gets its name and distinctive flavor from pistou, a paste made with crushed basil, garlic, and olive oil. In this recipe, the pistou is embellished with toasted pine nuts, as is pesto.


For the pistou

  • 1 cup basil leaves, packed

  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts

  • 1 garlic clove

  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt

  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • ½ cup olive oil

For the croutons

  • 12 baguette slices

  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For the soup

  • 3 sprigs thyme

  • 3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

  • 1 dried bay leaf

  • 1 ½ tablespoons plus ¼ cup olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 1 ½ pounds fresh fava beans (8 ounces shelled)

  • 6 cups water, plus more for pasta

  • 2 ½ teaspoons coarse salt

  • 3 ounces dry rigatoni pasta

  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced into ⅛-inch rounds

  • 1 celery stalk, cut into ¼-inch half moons

  • 2 small leeks, light-green and white parts, washed and cut into ¼-inch half moons

  • ½ small fennel bulb, cut into ¼-inch dice

  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • cup fresh or frozen peas

  • ½ medium zucchini, cut into ¼-inch dice

  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish


  1. Make pistou: In the bowl of a food processor, combine basil, pine nuts, garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pulse a few times to combine; with machine running, add 1/2 cup olive oil until mixture is pureed, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.

  2. Make croutons: Preheat broiler. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet, and sprinkle each slice with 1/2 teaspoon Parmesan cheese. Place under broiler, and broil until cheese begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from oven; set aside.

  3. Make soup: Tie together thyme, parsley, and bay leaf with kitchen twine to make a bouquet garni. In a 6-quart stockpot, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add 1/2 onion, bouquet garni, and 2 garlic cloves; saute until onion begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Add shelled fava beans; cook 2 minutes more. Add 2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to low; cover, and simmer gently 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer beans and cooking liquid to a bowl; reserve, and remove garlic and bouquet garni.

  4. While beans are cooking, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil; add pasta and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain in a colander, and set aside.

  5. In the same saucepan used to cook the beans, heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1/2 onion with the carrot, celery, leeks, and fennel, and saute 2 minutes. Add remaining 4 cups water, teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; cook 5 minutes more. Add peas, zucchini, reserved beans and cooking liquid, and pasta. Bring to a boil, and immediately remove from heat to preserve bright color of vegetables.

  6. To serve, ladle soup into four shallow bowls, and top each with a few croutons. Drizzle 2 tablespoons pistou into each bowl; garnish with Parmesan cheese.

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