I am not a Francophile, aka someone who admires the French, but I do like a good bowl of soup and Julia Child taught me that the French know something about cooking. This soup, a French cousin of Italy’s minestrone, is not at all reminiscent of the heavy, thick minestrones we eat during the winter. No, this is summer soup, made with seasonal vegetables cut into small pieces that fit easily on a spoon and float in a light broth.
Its flavor is intensified with a dollop of pistou, the French equivalent of Italian pesto. Interesting, isn’t it, the way the French and Italians have long borrowed cooking traditions from each other?
The recipe, from Cooks Illustrated, calls for orecchiette pasta (Italian for “small ears”), but you can use any short pasta, even orzo. Just be sure to make it small enough to fit on that aforementioned spoon.
When you prepare your vegetables, cut the celery and carrot lengthwise into several long pieces, then slice crosswise into small pieces. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut the tomato in half and scoop out its seeds with a spoon. You can use regular green beans or haricots verts (French for green beans), which are thinner.
One more idiosyncrasy of this recipe — Cooks Illustrated suggests adding a can of cannellini beans along with their liquid to give the soup added body. I always rinse and drain my canned beans to cut down on sodium but this time I took their advice and was careful to add salt sparingly afterwards. Have no fear, the end result will not be overly salty.
If you choose not to make the pistou, you can substitute store-bought pesto. The French would say merde but the Italians would definitely say buono!
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced 1/2 inch thick, and washed thoroughly
1 celery rib, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 carrot, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (15-oz.) cans low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 cup orecchiette or other short pasta
8 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2″ lengths
1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large tomato, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Heat oil in large Dutch oven and add leek, celery, carrot, and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook until vegetables are softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and water and bring to a simmer.
Stir in pasta and simmer until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in green beans and simmer until bright green but still crunchy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in cannellini beans and their liquid, zucchini, and tomato and simmer until pasta and vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, topping individual portions with a tablespoon of pistou.
Soup serves 6
WW Points per serving: 6
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed, for about 15 seconds. This can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 4 hours.
1 Tbsp. of pistou: 2 WW Points