Food and Drink

Soup season is here. Give your garden veggies a flavor boost with a pistou

This garden vegetable soup reminiscent of Italian minestrone is, like most Provençal “country” cooking — and what we do well in Alaska — about celebrating the land and making the most of what’s available. This time of year, when zucchini, cauliflower, and carrots have lost some of their luster, I pull out a big pot and make this soup that gets depth of flavor from a “pistou,” basically a ripe tomato-based pesto. In the true spirit of making the most of less, toss in what’s freshest from the garden or farmstand. Aside from carrot, leek, zucchini, and potatoes, a combo of beans, including fresh green beans, favas, as well as legumes, are essential; canned cannellini or chick peas work well but if starting with dried beans, cook those first until tender, then use the cooking liquid as the base of your soup. If you keep Parmesan rinds in the fridge or freezer — good for adding to soups and pasta sauces — toss one in as well. I always stir in kale or Swiss chard at the end. As for the pistou, grating tomato and garlic then pounding them in with fresh basil leaves, garlic, and Parm using a mortar and pestle can be very satisfying but the sauce can also be whizzed up in a blender or food processor. Serve the soup with extra pistou on the side and lots of crusty bread for dipping. A chilled rosé from Provence pairs well. — Kim Sunée

Vegetable soupe au pistou

Makes 6 to 8 servings

For the soup: feel free to sub in whatever is fresh and on hand and cut vegetables into similar-sized pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 stalks celery, sliced

2 small carrots (about 6 ounces), sliced


1 small leek, trimmed and cleaned of any grit, (about 3 ounces), sliced

1 small onion (about 5 ounces), halved and sliced

Trimmed green beans (about 6 ounces), cut in half if long

1 can garbanzo or cannellini beans, drained; see note above about using dried beans

2 medium potatoes (10 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Small piece of Parmesan rind (optional)

2 zucchini (about 16 ounces), trimmed and sliced

3/4 cup (about 3.5 ounces) small pasta such as shells or elbow macaroni

Handful of sliced kale or Swiss chard, thinly sliced

For the pistou:

2 cups packed fresh basil (or half flat-leaf parsley, half basil)

6 to 8 cloves garlic

1 large ripe tomato (8 ounces)

4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the soup: Heat olive oil in a large soup pot set over medium-high heat and add celery, carrots, leek, onion, green beans, canned beans, and potatoes, and a Parmesan rind, if using. Cover with 8 cups water or chicken broth. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir and bring to a boil, skimming froth as needed. Once liquid comes to a low boil, reduce heat to medium and let cook 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, adjusting heat as needed. Liquid should be more vigorous than a simmer but not quite a boil. After 12 minutes, add zucchini and pasta and reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, another 10 to 12 minutes, until vegetables and pasta are tender. Add a bit more liquid, if needed.


While soup is cooking, make pistou sauce. Blend together in a food processor basil, garlic, tomato, and parm; with processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Taste and add more garlic or tomato, as desired. Or a little salt and pepper.

Just before serving, stir in half of pistou sauce into soup, taste and adjust seasoning, as needed. Serve with extra sauce on the side and some freshly-grated Parmesan.

Kim Sunée

Kim Sunée is a bestselling author ("Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home," "A Mouthful of Stars," "Everyday Korean: Fresh, Modern Recipes for Home Cooks") and a former magazine food editor. She's based in Anchorage. For more food and travel, visit