Soupe au Pistou


On my first visit to Provence, a friend’s grandmother introduced me to this lovely fresh soup, full of the flavours of the surrounding countryside. As with anything so supremely simple, the freshness of the ingredients is all-important – as is the quality of the oil used. Pistou is a popular Provençal condiment much the same as Genovese pesto.


  • 200 g onions
  • 200 g carrots
  • 100 g leeks
  • 200 g squash or pumpkin
  • 250 ml good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 200 g potatoes
  • 200 g courgettes
  • Bouquet garni
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 100 g fresh peas or broad beans, blanched
  • 100 g cooked Fresh white beans (Coco de Paimpol, or other)
  • 4 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
  • 100 g cooked short-cut macaroni or ditali

For the Pistou

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch of basil
  • 50 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • About 100 good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving


Peel the vegetables as necessary, and cut them into rough 1 cm. dice. Rinse the leeks well.

In a large heavy-based pan, sweat the onions, carrots, leeks and squash or pumpkin in the olive oil over a gentle heat until soft. Add the potatoes and courgettes, and sweat these gently, stirring, until just beginning to soften.

Just cover with water, add the bouquet garni, with salt and pepper to taste, and cover with a lid. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Add the remaining ingredients and set aside to keep warm.

To make the pistou, combine all the ingredients except the oil (in a food processor rather than a blender, as this gives a better consistency). Then, with the machine still running, pour in just enough oil to make a thick, smooth paste.

Remove the bouquet garni from the soup and add the pistou at the last minute, together with a drizzle of olive oil and more grated Parmesan.