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Early Spring Soupe au Pistou

From the recipe box Verdura recipes by
Serves 6


Here’s my very early spring soupe au pistou recipe, a tonic for this time of year and a reminder of those summer days to come. (I’ll publish a summer recipe as well when the time is right.) If you don’t happen to have pesto stashed in your freezer, you can purchase it for now. But please do find a sunny spot in your vegetable or flower garden, or in a couple of large pots, to grow your own basil this year. By next March — if not a whole lot sooner — you’ll be thankful you did.


4 Tbsp. olive oil
3 medium leeks, dark green parts trimmed and discarded, light green and white parts thoroughly washed and cut into ¼-inch slices
~ Kosher salt
6 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups homemade chicken stock (or water; avoid canned chicken broth)
1 (15 oz.) can Roma tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
2 stalks celery, cut into ½-inch dice
1 cup cooked and drained flageolet or cannellini beans
½ bunch of white or red Swiss chard
½ cup Israeli couscous, acini di pepe, or orzo pasta
~ About ½ cup pesto (see recipe in my Verdura recipes box)


  1. In a large heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium and add the leeks and a generous pinch of salt. Stir, cover the pot, and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook the leeks gently without browning, stirring occasionally, until they are limp and tender. Increase the heat to high, add the garlic, and sauté, stirring, one minute. Then add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
  2. Add the tomatoes, herbs, carrots, turnips, celery and beans, and bring back to a boil. Simmer until the vegetables are just tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the ribs out of the chard leaves and set aside. Cut the larger leaf pieces in half or quarters lengthwise, stack eight or ten leaves, and cut into ¼” slivers crosswise. Make sure they’re not too long – no one wants long strands of anything hanging off his soup spoon! Continue until all the chard is sliced, then add it to the soup pot. Add the pasta, stir, and simmer the mixture until the chard is tender and the pasta is cooked, about 15 minutes.
  4. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Add a dollop of pesto to each bowl, swirling it in, and serve.
  5. Serving note: Crostini spread with goat cheese make a wonderful accompaniment.


Feel free to substitute types of greens, types of beans, and other root vegetables as supplies — and your whim — dictate. In the photo above, we used kale, cranberry beans, and a rutabaga instead of the chard, beans, and turnip.

This content is from the Verdura recipes collection.

There are 3 comments on this item
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33% recommend this recipe
1. by Laura Parisi on Mar 28, 2009 at 3:52 PM PDT

Is there a reason to avoid canned chicken broth other than it’s not as tasty as homemade? Or is there a food safety or adding-a-bad-flavor issue there?

2. by Caroline Lewis on Mar 30, 2009 at 11:12 AM PDT

I never use canned chicken broth because it doesn’t taste as good as homemade, and I don’t know what went into it. However, using homemade broth may not be practical for everyone. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and probably a number of other stores do offer organic broth that would be fine to use.

3. by oregon foodie on Apr 14, 2009 at 8:30 AM PDT

I made this last week and my husband and I thought it was FABULOUS! Even better were the leftovers for lunch this week! I used homemade chicken stock and homemade pesto -- yum!

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