Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Soupe au Pistou, a la Mark Bittman

Faced with a mountain of basil and needing another use for it besides pesto, I made soupe au pistou from a Mark Bittman recipe that appeared in the New York Times.  You make a pesto-type basil mixture and stir it into a Provencal style soup filled with yumminess.

Ingredients (with my notes in italics):
  • 1 cup fresh shell beans (like cranberry or lima), soaked for a couple of hours in water to cover, or 1/2 cup dried beans, soaked overnight (or boiled for 2 minutes and soaked for 2 hours), drained (I didn't do this because...meh I don't know why I couldn't pick a bean and didn't feel like soaking)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 small to medium zucchini, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 6 to 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup small pasta like ditalini, or capellini broken into pieces
  • Freshly grated Parmesan to taste
Serves about 8.

Let's start chopping.

Chop up the onion, celery, potatoes and carrots.  Okay sidetrack for a second here: the recipe says "chop" because that makes it sound easy and would have been easier, but I just picture this soup as a nice mixture of diced veggies.  Although I really do not like dicing carrots (I know, I brought it on myself).  Carrots suck. They are an uneven shape, hard but difficult to stabilize, ooh they just make me so mad. 

Place chopped veggies, including those damn carrot cubes, in a nice big pot (you would also put in the beans at this point if you're using them).  I also placed a rind of a spent Parmesan wedge I had been saving.

The recipe says to cover with water by 2 inches.  I put in less water because I think some of the water was supposed to get soaked up by the beans, but I wasn't using beans so I cut back.  Bring to boil, lower temp to simmer, and cook for 30-60 minutes (depending on your beans).  I simmered the mixture for about 35 minutes.

Then throw in your chopped zucchini and tomatoes.

Continue to simmer for about 20 minutes.  Ten minutes before you're ready to serve (although really who knows that they're going to be eating in TEN MINUTES) throw in the pasta.  After 10 minutes the pasta will continue to absorb water and get a little soft, but honestly we can't control everything so I decided not to care.

A few days before, I made the basil mixture.  While Bittman's recipe just calls for basil, garlic and olive oil, I was already making a batch of pesto so there were also almonds in the mix.  I did hold off on the Parmesan (I would add separately to the soup later).  I pressed plastic wrap to the surface of the "pesto" and refrigerated it for a few days until I made the soup.  I really appreciated having made the basil mixture a few days before because it saved a lot of work, and I was already peeved about dicing the carrots.

When the rest of the soup was done cooking, I mixed in the basil mixture, along with Parmesan cheese and salt to taste. Serve with some nice, crusty bread.


Note: This is best served the day of.  After that, the pasta soaks up all the liquid and it's more of a pasta instead of a soup. Still tasted good, but not the same.


  1. Yummy!! I would have totally chewed on that Parmesan rind.

  2. Oo! You're really good at chopping vegetables. This looks great! By the way, I totally know that I was the person you saw who, after trying to eat that stalk of greens with my little teeth, just swallowed it whole. THANKS FOR POINTING IT OUT ON THE INTERNET! I'm mortified.

  3. I always see variations of this reci floating around, and I never get inspired to make it. because I can't imagine that a bowl of chopped up what-really-amounts-to-stock-veggies is going to taste all that good. BUT I have to say that pic does look tres yummy so I may be inspired to try.

    youse also has some mad knife dicing skills.

  4. Did you cheat with chopping those veggies? They look too perfect. No, I'm seriously impressed. Yum!!

  5. Man, I love soup. I could eat it any season or time of day. And this seems to be the kind that is season-less and timeless (like black wool crepe trousers). And how perfect are those chopped vegetables? I'm going to go find a can of Progresso to open now (just for the quick fix). Thanks a lot, Pug, thanks.

  6. I too am impressed by your knife skills. Must go practice chopping now.