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Soupe au Pistou


Whilst spending so much time in France, particularly the Provence region, you learn how to cook delicious food with whatever ingredients you can find or that are grown locally. That is the joy of this area – there is always something available to make great, healthy dishes.

Soupe au pistou, is one such dish. Of course, there are traditional methods of creating this soup, but the fun is making it different each time – just some subtle changes can lift the soup and make you feel you have never eaten it before!

The one thing that cannot be radically changed is the ‘pistou’ itself. Whatever happens, pistou must not be confused with ‘pesto’ – it is simply not the same. Even though some of the ingredients are, the key difference is that pistou does not include pine nuts, which are vital in pesto, to create that unique nutty and earthy flavour.

Whilst this soup is credited to the Nice area in the south, other culinary references state that it originated just over the border into Italy, primarily the Genoese region. It is less than a hundred miles, but food as we all know travels!

Soupe au pistou

To make this wholesome and heart-warming soup, do pick your ingredients wisely and to your own taste. A combination of root and leaf vegetables, plus your pistou, will transport you to the sunny climes of Provence and all it has to offer.

The main element to remember is the length of time it takes to cook various vegetables and beans (legumes) – if you cook them all together at the same time, you could end up with ‘half mush and half hard’! We want ‘soup not gloop and this recipe shows how to avoid this problem by choosing vegetables you can cook all at the same time.



Measurement Conversion Chart

1½tbsp olive oil
1 medium sized onion, finely diced
2 green celery sticks, finely chopped
1 medium sized carrot, peeled and cut into small cubes
150g turnip or parsnips, peeled and cut into small cubes
150g squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into small cubes
60g fennel bulb, finely chopped (include some of the fronds)
80g cannellini beans (you could also use haricot or flageolet beans)
2 medium sized savoy cabbage (or any dark green cabbage) leaves, finely shredded
1tsp dried thyme
1 litre water (if the soup gets too thick, add a little more)
For the pistou
Medium sized bunch fresh basil
1 medium sized garlic clove
50ml extra virgin olive oil

Author picture
Bev Perkins

An experienced chef, recipe developer, food writer and qualified nutritionist, Bev’s career has encompassed over 40 years. Educated in London and Paris, and with an unquenchable thirst for travelling, Bev’s passion for cooking evolved with a deep desire to learn about every cuisine in the globe, so whilst resident in Paris she enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu (formerly L’Ecole Culinaire de Paris) and spent two years learning her art. She furthered her experience working in restaurants in all corners of the world from bistros to Michelin-Starred establishments and finally with her own catering company providing food to both corporate and individual clients. An experienced writer and editor, Bev is never happier than with a pen in one hand and cookery book in the other!

by Bev Perkins
  • Prep 20min
  • Cook20min
  • Meal Time Dinner
  • Serves 4


  1. Using a large pot, gently heat the olive oil and toss in the vegetables but leave cabbage to one side. Cook/sweat for around 5-10 minutes, stirring to ensure they do not burn.
  2. Pour the water in and add herbs and seasoning to your taste. Simmer until the vegetables become tender.
  3. Add the cabbage and cook until softened.
  4. Add the beans at the last moment, heat through fully.
  5. Whilst the soup is cooking, make your pistou. Simply put all the ingredients into a liquidiser or strong blender and blitz until smooth. Adjust with seasoning to taste.
  6. Serve in bowls either with the pistou on top or stirred through (yum to stirred through!)
  7. Add side bowls of grated Parmesan or some crusty bread.

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