Pantry Pistou Soup
I’ve been working on the computer all afternoon. It’s past 6 pm. Although I had tomorrow’s supper planned – a Beef Merlot marinating in the fridge – there’s nothing in the works for tonight, and I was hoping to avoid a trip to the grocery store. An excellent opportunity for a “cuisine du placard” or a “here’s what I made from what was in the fridge” blog!
A quick investigation of the fridge revealed: a few veggies, Epicure’s Pesto and Epicure’s Margherita Sauce leftover from a weekend “pasta bar” dinner (a very casual dinner with various pastas and sauces). Although unplanned, I found I had all the makings for a Sylvie rendition of Minestrone Al Pesto, or la soupe au pistou, a Provençal soup with summer vegetables and pasta served with pistou – a mixture of fresh garlic, olive oil, and chopped fresh basil.
Pesto and pistou are close relatives; the only difference is that pistou doesn’t have any Parmesan or pine nuts. Although la soupe au pistou (the French version of Minestrone Al Pesto, a cornerstone of Italian cooking) originated in Genoa, it’s served almost exclusively in Provence. Little wonder – they say that one-third of the Provence population are of Italian descent!
Like many recipes, each family and home chef has their own way of making this soup. In general, Minestrone Al Pesto and la soupe au pistou include beans (green, white, and red), zucchini, potato, tomatoes, and pasta. (I never add peas or potatoes – reminds me too much of the canned minestrone I’ve never enjoyed.) It’s served in individual bowls, with the pistou or pesto and grated Parmesan alongside. Everyone tops their own bowl with a tablespoon or so of both, “to taste.”
Here’s what I found to put in my impromptu pistou soup:
- Celery, carrots, bell pepper, zucchini, and garlic – most fridges have a stash of these great basics
- Haricots coco – a flat bean, possibly a scarlet cousin of runner beans, but a little less fibrous. Delicious, and easy to prep without the strings.
- Leftover Epicure’s Pesto and Margherita Sauce – but any red sauce will do. If you don’t have any prepared, just add canned diced tomatoes with some of your favourite Epicure Italian seasoning.
- Since I’d used my last onion in the Beef Merlot that’s marinating away as I write, I used leeks for the soup. (I love this time of the year – as soon as it turns cooler, I crave braised and simmered dishes.)
First thing is to get the ingredients diced and ready to go. I almost always do a mise en place (everything in place or at hand). I also rinse the canned beans and put them back in the can (saves dishes!). In the end, I’ve found having everything prepped saves time and reduces the chance of unfortunate mishaps. It also saves me from getting flustered cutting and pouring and mixing all at once!
Next, sauté all the veg in olive oil for a good five minutes. Add tomato sauce, Epicure’s Bouillon (Vegetable or Chicken), and canned beans. Simmer for about 20 minutes and add pasta. Cook for another 7-10 minutes, depending on the size of pasta. Ladle into individual bowls and top with grated cheese and a tablespoon of pesto, each to their own taste.
This makes a very satisfying supper soup accompanied by a good baguette, and it’s the kind of dish that tastes even better the next day!