Winter Pistou Soup

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Pistou soup is the French version of Italian minestrone. It comes from the Provence region of France. It generally is a summer soup that uses the freshest of vegetables. Pistou also refers to the sauce that is drizzled on the top of the soup which is similar to Italian pesto and often contains tomato without the pine nuts.


Here, is a winter version of the soup with the inclusion of fennel, Romanesco, chard, and winter squash that is prevalent in the winter here in the Northwest. A recipe for vegetable broth is included if wanting a fresh flavor, however, a boxed broth will suffice. You may also used drained and rinsed canned beans in place of cooking dry beans. This is a warm, hearty main course soup best served with crusty bread for sopping up every bit!

Winter Pistou Soup

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8 entrée servings


For the beans

½ cup dry Great Northern or navy beans (or a 15-ounce can of Great Northern beans)

1 bay leaf

1 sprig dried epazote (optional to reduce flatulence)

¼ cup onions, small diced

1 clove garlic, peeled, smashed

2 cups filtered water

½ teaspoon kosher salt

For the Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup onion, small diced

1 cup carrots, small diced

1 cup fennel bulb, small diced

2 teaspoons garlic cloves, minced (about 4 garlic cloves)

1 quart vegetable broth (recipe follows or boxed)

1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes in juice

1 teaspoon dry thyme

2  teaspoons salt or to taste

2 cups winter squash, peeled, large diced (about ½ pound)

½ cup dry pasta, like fusilli or shells

2 cups Romanesco, separated into small florets

1 cup packed fresh spinach or chard, cut into ribbons

¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

For the pistou

1 ½  cup packed fresh basil leaves

1 clove garlic, peeled, minced

1 tomato peeled, seeded, chopped

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano or vegan nutritional yeast


1.     For the beans: Rinse and sort the beans. Soak overnight covered by over an inch of filtered water. Drain the beans and put them in a saucepan (or slow cooker) with the bay leaf, onion, garlic, two cups filtered water, and salt. Cook for about an hour and a half, or until tender. Drain and reserve. May skip this step by using a fifteen-ounce can of Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed.

2.     For the soup: Heat the oil in a large non-reactive soup pot until it shimmers.

3.     Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic. Cook until soft and translucent.

4.     Add the vegetable broth, tomatoes with juice, thyme, and salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.

5.     Add the squash. Simmer for about five minutes.

6.     Add the pasta and cook until the pasta is done according to package directions. Add the Romanesco, spinach or chard and the cooked beans during the last five minutes of cooking the pasta. Heat thoroughly.

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7.     Taste, Think, Transform with salt and/or black pepper.

8.     While the soup is cooking make the pistou: In a small saucepan of boiling water blanch the basil for thirty seconds. Drain, rinse with cold water and squeeze dry. (This step will help retain the bright green color of the basil.)

9.     Pound the garlic with a mortar and pestle (or make in a small food processor). Add the basil, tomato, and oil. Combine until smooth. Add the cheese or yeast. Taste, Think, Transform with salt.

10.  Ladle soup into warm bowls, Add a generous dollop of pistou in the center. Serve with a crusty whole grain bread for sopping up every drop.

Vegetable Broth

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1 quart

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 medium clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon shallot, minced

2 slices dried porcini mushrooms, washed

1 6x4-inch piece kombu, broken into smaller pieces, washed

1 cup carrot peels or ½ cup small diced carrots         

1 cup onion, sliced crosswise

¾ cup celery, one-fourth inch slices of equal width

½ cup Roma tomato, small diced

6 black peppercorns, cracked

1 bay leaf

6 parsley stems, cut into small pieces

½ teaspoon dried thyme

5 ½ cups filtered water


1.     Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Sweat the garlic and shallots over low heat until translucent and fragrant. Turn the heat up to medium-high.

2.     Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for forty-five minutes to an hour. Taste, Think, Transform by considering if the flavor has been completely extracted. Cook longer if not. Do not add salt.

3.     Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard solids.

4.     Use immediately or quickly chill in an ice water bath. Refrigerate. May be frozen up to three months.

Sop up the goodness of this hearty winter soup.

Sop up the goodness of this hearty winter soup.