Soupe au Pistou

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves



Appears in

French Country Kitchen

French Country Kitchen

By Geraldene Holt

Published 1987

  • About

Most summers I find that growing basil in Britain is not as difficult as is often supposed. Under glass or in a sunny corner or windowsill just a pot or two (treat it like a busy-Lizzie) makes your summer cooking truly evocative of the south. In France two kinds of basil are grown: small-leaved, usually designated for sauces, and large-leaved, which is preferable for salads.

Those who make it know that home-made pesto really brings pasta alive and totally transforms this otherwise plain Provençal bean and vegetable soup. Dried haricot beans are optional – some nineteenth-century cook books omit them altogether. But if possible I like to include fresh white haricot beans, which are in the markets in the south during late July; they are added to the soup with the potatoes. (Fresh white haricot beans are added to hot water, dried white haricot beans are soaked and added to cold water.)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 115 g(4 oz) white haricot beans, fresh or, if dried then already soaked and cooked
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • salt, milled pepper
  • 225 g(8 oz) green haricot beans, cut in short lengths
  • green part of a leek, finely sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 55 g(2 oz) fine vermicelli


  • 2–3 cloves of garlic
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • 3–4 tablespoons olive oil
  • finely grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese


Heat the oil in a large pan and soften the onion. Add the white haricot beans, potatoes and celery with about litres(2½–3 pt) water and some salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, for 10–15 minutes.

Now add the green haricot beans, leek, tomatoes and vermicelli and cook for a further 10 minutes. Taste to check the seasoning.

Meanwhile pound the garlic with the basil, gradually adding the olive oil and just a tablespoon or so of the hot liquid from the soup.

Serve the soup in large bowls, spoon in some pistou and sprinkle in some grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese.