Provençal Vegetable Soup with Basil Pesto

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Cooking One on One

Cooking One on One

By John Ash

Published 2004

  • About

Don’t let the long list of ingredients deter you. The soup cooks quickly, and the pesto’s already made, right? My little secret ingredient is a piece of Parmesan cheese rind, which simmers along with the vegetables and adds great flavor. You remove it at serving time and can reuse it till it’s gone. Store wrapped in the freezer. The rind of Parmesan and related hard cheeses like Asiago or Pecorino are amazing flavor boosters. Of course, if you don’t have any rind, the soup will still be delicious.


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 cups leeks, including white and tender green parts, cut into rings
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large red or white boiling potato, scrubbed and diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons whole thyme
  • 2 quarts homemade chicken or vegetable stock or your favorite canned broth or water
  • 3- or 4-inch chunk of Parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1 cup seeded and diced fresh tomatoes, or drained, canned diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup small dry pasta such as riso
  • 2 cups cooked dried beans of your choice such as navy, flageolet, or garbanzo, drained and rinsed if canned
  • 2 cups fresh green beans or zucchini cut in ½-inch pieces
  • Basic Basil Pesto


Heat the Olive Oil in a deep soup pot over moderate heat and add the onions, leeks, garlic, potatoes, and carrots. Sauté and stir for 3 or 4 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften and just begin to brown. Add the bay leaves, fennel seed, thyme, stock, Parmesan rind, if using, and tomatoes to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and slowly simmer for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are almost tender. Add the pasta, cooked dried beans, and green beans and simmer for 5 minutes more, or until all is tender to your taste. Remove the rind and bay leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle into warm bowls, swirl in a heaping tablespoon or two of basil pesto, and serve. Actually, it’s nice to let the soup eaters swirl in their own pesto at the table; that way, everyone gets the full experience of the aroma as it hits the soup.