I love soup au pistou, that bounteous collection of simmered summer vegetables and beans finished with pesto. But as I don’t necessarily want to be cooking dried beans at the peak of summer heat and canned beans are too soft for this soup, pasta takes their place.
This dish shows how much flavor comes from the garden, for it’s only that, and not some difficult technique, that accounts for its goodness. I’m a bit loose on measurements because sizes and varieties vary in garden or farmers market vegetables.
I don’t think there’s really an exact formulation. Even if I use these same vegetables every time, I never end up with the same soup twice.
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 3 leeks, white parts plus an inch of green, chopped and rinsed
• Pinch of saffron threads
• 3 medium to large carrots, diced
• 3 yellow waxy boiling potatoes
• 3 medium turnips, peeled and diced
• 3 zucchini or other summer squash, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds or chunks
• 3/4 pound greens beans, tipped, tailed and cut into 1-inch lengths
• 2 large ripe tomatoes, any color, peeled, seeded and diced
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
• 2 quarts vegetable stock made with summer vegetables, or water
• 1 cup dried pasta: pastini, orzo, broken spaghetti or other small shapes
• For Pesto
• 3 cups loosely packed basil leaves, stems removed
• 1 plump garlic clove, peeled
• 3 tablespoons pine nuts
• 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
• 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
• 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1.Warm oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks and saffron, and cook gently until leeks look glossy and translucent and saffron is fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add vegetables, including juice from tomatoes, garlic and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt. Cook 5 minutes, then add stock. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
2.Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted boiling water, then drain and rinse under cold water.
3. To make pesto, combine garlic in a mortar with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pine nuts, then add basil leaves a handful at a time, grinding until you have a fairly fine paste. Briefly work in cheeses, then stir in olive oil. Taste for salt. Or use a food processor: Process garlic, salt and pine nuts until finely chopped, then add basil and olive oil, and puree until smooth. Add cheeses and process just to combine.
4. Add pasta to hot soup and stir to combine. Then ladle soup into bowls and stir a spoonful of pesto into each serving. Season with pepper. The soup need not be piping hot. In fact, it’s better served a little on the tepid side.
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Reprinted with permission from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen by Deborah Madison, copyright 2006, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography copyright 2006 by Laurie Smith.