Legendary Dishes | Soupe au Pistou (basil paste soup)


Food fusion before the phrase was ‘invented‘ by celebrity chefs, soupe au pistou is a creation from Pays Niçois on the French Riviera. Taking Genoese pesto sauce to their hearts and their pestles, the good home cooks of Nice added tomatoes and omitted the nuts to produce this amazing soup.


  • 2.5 litres water
  • 750 g white haricot beans, (dried, soaked overnight in cold water)
  • 500 g green French / runner beans, 3 cm slices
  • 400 g courgette, diced
  • 400 g potatoes / turnips, diced
  • 200 g orecchiette pasta
  • 200 g parmigiano, freshly grated for dressing
  • 150 g onions, chopped
  • 100 g tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt, pinch
  • Pepper, pinch
  • Olive oil, for frying


  • 200 g tomatoes
  • 75 g parmigiano, grated
  • 60 g basil leaves
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed

Cook white beans in a large pot three-quarter filled with water. When the beans are tender, add the green beans, zucchini and potatoes or turnips. Simmer for 15 minutes, add pasta, cover pan and cook until al dente.

Some versions call for onions to be sautéed in oil, de-glazed with water, then added to the pot followed by the beans and vegetables. Tomatoes are also a variation, added with the vegetables.

While the pasta is cooking, pound the tomatoes in a mortar, remove, then pound the garlic and basil, slowly add the oil. Stir in the tomato pulp and the cheese to form a paste.