This soup is based on pistou, the classic French soup from Provence. Laden with vegetables and pasta, and flavoured with pesto, the delicious basil and Parmesan sauce, it makes a fabulous change from minestrone, its Italian counterpart. French bread is the traditional accompaniment, plus a glass of wine.
For a more substantial soup, or to increase the protein content for a vegetarian meal, stir in 1 can cannellini or flageolet beans, about 400 g, well drained. Add an extra 150 ml (5 fl oz) stock and increase the pesto in each serving to 2 tsp. * When fresh tomatoes are not available, use 1 can chopped tomatoes, about 400 g, well drained, instead. * Use quick-cook macaroni instead of vermicelli.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, a carotenoid compound that acts as an antioxidant. Recent studies suggest that lycopene may help to protect against bladder and pancreatic cancers. * All cheeses are a good source of calcium, and they contain vitamins A and D. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so the more fat in the cheese, the more vitamin D it provides. Parmesan is a high-fat cheese, so adding the optional spoonful to your bowl of soup will increase the fat content, but will also increase the calcium and vitamins.
B1, B6, E, niacin * calcium * C, folate, iron