This is a meat-free vegetable soup from the south of France. It is delicious, flavorful and satisfying, especially in the winter. You may be surprised to find most of the ingredients you need are already in your kitchen.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups onions, sliced in thin half-moons
2 cups leeks (white & light green parts), sliced thin
3 cups diced red and or Yukon gold potatoes
4 large peeled thinly sliced carrots
1 1/2 tsp. black or white freshly ground pepper
8 cups homemade vegetable or chicken stock (or 2 cans low-sodium broth and 2 cans water)
4 cups water
1 tsp. saffron threads
12 oz. hericots verts, trimmed and halved
4 oz. ditalini or other small pasta
Prepare the vegetables.
In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil until hot. Add the onions. Season with kosher salt. Saute for 10 minutes or until translucent. Do not brown the onions.
Add the leeks, potatoes, carrots, a couple full teaspoons kosher salt and pepper and saute over medium heat for 15 minutes.
Add the chicken stock & saffron, bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.
Add the hericots verts and pasta and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Depending on how salty your stock is, you may need to add up to a full tablespoon of kosher salt. Remember, though, the pistou paste is rich.
To serve, whisk 1/4 cup of the pistou (below) into the hot soup. Serve the remaining pistou at the table for guests to season according to taste. Pass Parmesan with this and serve with a crusty French baguette.
4 large, peeled garlic gloves
1/4 cup tomato paste
24 large basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup good olive oil
Place all ingredients but the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Puree.
With the motor running slowly pour the olive oil down the feed tube to make a paste. To serve and store, place in a non-porous container and cover with a film of olive oil.