Vegetable Bean Pistou Soup

img_2181I have been making this soup for years and it is always a favorite. Sometimes I cook my own beans and use the liquid as the basis for the soup stock and other times I’m lazy and use quality canned beans and vegetable stock and a bought pesto. Today I made my own pistou (or pesto). The main difference between pistou and pesto is that pistou doesn’t have nuts. Either way you make it, the soup works. While I will use real cheese in my pistou, there are vegan options if you wish to go that route.

This soup will keep but the vegetables will lose some of their vibrant color when you go to reheat it and the pasta will swell up the longer it sits in the soup. The taste is still wonderful and I find that the flavors actually intensify by the second day; however, if you wish to avoid some of that in your left-over soup, cook the pasta separately, instead of in the stock with the vegetables and only add it when you are ready to eat. Or you can cook the first part of the soup, if making this ahead of serving it, prep the additional veggies and add them only when you go to reheat things. This is a real peasant soup in the best sense of the word, so just enjoy it. Make sure you have a good crusty bread to sop up whatever you can’t scrape out of the bowl – it’s THAT good. An apple tart or crostata would make a perfect dessert.

Vegetable Bean Pistou Soup adapted from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book

Yield: about 8 to 10 servings as dinner


2 Tablespoons EVOO

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 large leeks (white and light green part only) well washed and thinly sliced

3 large carrots, peeled and sliced in 1/4 inch thick rounds

3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced

4 cups boiling water and up to 6 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken)

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

About 4 cups of coarsely chopped kale (any kind) or spinach or green cabbage (See note below)

1/2 pound green beans, cut in half (I prefer the French haricot verts for this because they stay crisper, but plain old green beans will work)

24 to 28 ounces of chopped tomatoes in their own juice

3 slim zucchini/summer squash (a mix of yellow and green is pretty), sliced in 1/2 inch rounds or half-rounds if you prefer smaller pieces

2 cups cooked white beans such as Great Northern, Cannellini or Navy)

1/2 cup of small macaroni or ditalini pasta

Pistou or pesto (about a cup or more, to taste)


  1. In a 5 or 6 quart Dutch oven or cocotte, heat the EVOO and add the onions, leeks and carrots. Saute the vegetables just until they soften and begin to be aromatic.
  2. Add the potato, the water and 4 cups of the stock and about 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the soup to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and allow it to cook for 35 minutes, uncovered. Add the tomatoes. (If you are making the soup ahead of time, this is where you stop the cooking.)
  3. If you are making your own pistou and did not already make it, now is a good time to start.
  4. Prep your other vegetables. If you are not making the soup to eat immediately, you can place them in the fridge already prepped for at least a day. When you are ready to serve the soup, bring the liquid back to a simmer. Add the prepped vegetables and the beans and return the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to an active simmer (or gentle boil) and cook for about 20 more minutes. Add the pasta and cook for 8-10 more minutes or until the pasta is done.  The vegetables will still have some crunch. If you prefer them softer, cook until desired doneness. NOTE: I like a very thick soup, but if you prefer more liquid either add less kale or 2 additional cups of stock at this point.
  5. Add the pistou and stir it through. Adjust your salt and pepper. Spoon into bowls and garnish with a spoonful of additional pistou (I like a lot) and some grated cheese, if using.


So who are Lisa and Frances anyway?

Lisa and Andrew Millennium Park 2010Matthew and Frances at Yale April 2009

We are a mother and daughter-in-law who share our love of cooking, making food attractive and feeding our friends and family. Frances and my son currently live in New York and both work full-time. I live in Chicago and also work full-time. We live in apartments with decidedly unfancy kitchens and very little space. So whatever we make, you can make. Neither of us has been to cooking school, but I come from a long line of wonderful home cooks and Frances is starting her own traditions while carrying on some of mine. We are eclectic omnivores, but we have made meals to satisfy vegans and children with serious allergies. About the only foods I won’t eat are sushi, blood sausage (at least not on purpose!) and really rare meat. Frances eats all of those, as does her husband. We cook for Jewish holidays, Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. I read cookbooks voraciously and my favorite shopping is food shopping. Well okay, I also like to jewelry shop. Thanks to the internet, everything is available whether you live in Missoula, Montana, Anchorage, Alaska or a major city like San Francisco or New York. Did I tell you that we love to hike in the mountains of Utah and eat and drink our way across Napa and Sonoma? For about five years, Frances and I have been sharing recipes and photos and we thought it might be fun to let you enjoy them too. I’m sure that Frances will have things to add, but this should give you an idea if you want to check us out.