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French Country Vegetable Soup & Basil Pistou


This soup is one of my favourites. Filling enough for supper, it’s a rustic, chunky soup based on a Provençal dish, soupe au pistou. Since you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, it’s a terrific soup to help clear out the fridge and it’s never the same twice. Here, I’ve used canned tomatoes and white beans for convenience, but I like to use fresh tomatoes in season and cook dried beans ahead if time allows. Sometimes I simmer a chunk of peameal bacon with the vegetables; other times I toss in a rind of Parmesan cheese to add body and depth of flavour to the broth. Serve with Basil Pistou and warm, crusty bread. Pistou is the French version of pesto; if you’re pressed for time, a good store-bought pesto could substitute.

  • Serves: 6-8 (Basil Pistou makes about 1 cup/250 ml)
  • Course: Dinner


French Country Vegetable Soup

  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) mixed diced vegetables (such as leeks, carrots, potatoes, green beans, and zucchini)
  • 1 can (14 oz/398 ml)  plum tomatoes with juice, diced
  • 1 bouquet  garni (1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme, and a few celery leaves, tied together with kitchen string)
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 can (19 oz/540 ml)  white beans, rinsed and drained
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Basil Pistou

Basil Pistou

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp (2 ml) kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cup (250 ml) fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 1⁄8 tsp (0.5 ml) freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2-3/4 cup (125-175 ml) extra-virgin olive oil


  1. French Country Vegetable Soup

    In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, plus any vegetables that require a longer cooking time, such as leeks, carrots, and potatoes. Sauté for 4–5 minutes. Add tomatoes, enough water to cover vegetables, bouquet garni, and 1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook until vegetables are almost tender, about 35 minutes.

  2. Add tender vegetables (such as green beans or zucchini) and white beans. Simmer for about 15 minutes more. Remove bouquet garni and season soup to taste.
  3. Serve soup in warm bowls. Serve Basil Pistou alongside so that each person can swirl in a spoonful or two.
  4. Basil Pistou
  5. Using a mortar and pestle, or a food processor, mash garlic with salt, basil, and pepper. Remove to a bowl and mix in cheese. Gradually drizzle in oil, mixing in just enough to make a smooth, thick sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning.

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Jane Rodmell