French Pistou Soup Recipe with Fresh Vegetables

Pistou soup is southern-French summertime in a bowl.

With fresh herbs, bright seasonal vegetables, and a pesto-inspired sauce borrowed from the nearby Liguria region in Italy, pistou soup is the essence of what makes French cooking so great.

The beauty of this recipe, as with so many other French classics, lies in its versatility. Feel free to use whichever vegetables you have on hand—as long as they’re fresh and seasonal!

French pistou soup recipe

A Provençal (and Italian) favorite

Pistou soup comes from the Provence region in the south of France. Though recipes can vary, it includes several hints of influence from nearby Italy: a simple, pine nut-free pesto-like sauce (known as pistou), small pasta noodles, and even a sprinkling of Parmesan. In fact, many Italians claim this soup as their own, so its origin story can change depending on who you ask!

But no matter where it comes from, there’s no denying that pistou soup is a staple of summertime menus throughout France. As long as you use in-season produce, it’s fairly inexpensive to make, and it’s all about letting the simplicity of the ingredients shine.

If you’re craving pistou soup out of season, feel free to substitute any other produce that is available, such as root veggies in winter. Try experimenting with different versions and come up with your own signature recipe, just like a French chef!

Bowl of French pistou soup
Pistou soup topped with its namesake sauce and plenty of Parmesan.

Pistou soup recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the pistou sauce:

  • 1 ounce (30 grams) basil leaves and stalks
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (20 grams) puréed garlic
  • ⅖ cup or 6.5 tablespoons (100 milliliters) extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the soup:

  • ¼ cup (60 milliliters) extra virgin olive oil
  • Half of a medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 medium stalk celery, washed and chopped
  • 3 ounces (90 grams) fennel, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, washed, peeled, and chopped
  • 3.4 cups (800 milliliters) boiling water
  • 1.75 ounces (50 grams) broad beans
  • ½ cup zucchini, diced
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1.75 ounces (50 grams) fresh peas
  • 1 cup (200 grams) short-cut pasta, such as shells or bowties (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese, to taste
  • Salt and pepper
  • Croutons, for topping

Instructions

For the pistou sauce:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the basil and blanch quickly (about 5 seconds) so that it keeps its color. Plunge immediately into cold water to stop it from cooking through.
  2. Squeeze any excess water off the basil and roughly chop.
  3. In a blender, purée the basil, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the soup:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, celery, fennel and carrots. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 3–4 minutes. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
  2. Add the hot water and bring to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini and broad beans, and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and peas. Cook for another minute, then add in the pistou sauce and a good amount of Parmesan.
  5. If including pasta, cook in a separate pot according to package directions in the meantime. Strain and add it to the pot with the soup.
  6. Serve topped with croutons, more Parmesan, and fresh basil for garnish.

There’s more where that came from—check out 50+ of our favorite European recipes in our new cookbook!

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