Vegetable soup with fragrant pesto

    40 min

    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.

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    Serves: 4 

    • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 leek, thinly sliced
    • 1 large courgette, diced
    • 150 g (5 1/2 oz) French beans, cut into short lengths
    • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 1.3 litres (2 1/4 pints) vegetable stock
    • 250 g (9 oz) tomatoes, chopped
    • 85 g (3 oz) vermicelli, broken into small pieces
    • 2 tbsp pesto sauce
    • pepper
    • To serve (optional)
    • 4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    Prep:10min  ›  Cook:30min  ›  Ready in:40min 

    1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the leek, courgette, beans and garlic and fry over a moderately high heat for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and beginning to turn brown.
    2. Pour in the vegetable stock. Stir in the tomatoes and add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cover the pan. Simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, but still holding their shape.
    3. Stir in the vermicelli. Cover the pan again and simmer for a further 5 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.
    4. Ladle the soup into bowls and add 1 1/2 tsp pesto to each. Stir, then serve, offering the Parmesan cheese separately to stir into the soup.

    Some more ideas

    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.

    Plus points

    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.

    Each serving provides

    B1, B6, E, niacin * calcium * C, folate, iron

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