Hearty French vegetable soup
Provençal soup, also known as Soupe au Pistou, is a traditional culinary gem originating from the sun-kissed region of Provence in southern France. This beloved soup is a testament to the rich flavors, vibrant produce, and cultural heritage of the area. Provençal soup combines fragrant herbs, seasonal vegetables, and pistou sauce to create a delightful sensory experience.
Provençal cuisine embodies the essence of Mediterranean cooking, emphasizing fresh and locally sourced ingredients. This hearty vegetable soup exemplifies this philosophy, featuring a medley of vegetables that showcase the region’s bounty. Tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, carrots, and onions reflect the agricultural abundance of Provence.
The star of Provençal soup, undoubtedly, is the traditional sauce that enhances the flavors of the dish – pistou. It adds a burst of herbal and garlicky notes. Right before serving, the sauce is stirred in, adding a final touch of flavor and fragrance to the soup.
This recipe draws inspiration from a French Vegetarian Cookbook. While the original version features pasta, sometimes, I swap out the pasta for semolina gnocchi in my Provencal soup.
Also, I decided to swap out the classic pistou for a luscious hollandaise sauce. The creamy richness of the hollandaise adds a luxurious touch to the soup. If you are looking for the authentic taste, I’ve included the traditional pistou recipe below for you to try.
What sets this recipe apart is its versatility. Whether you have a penchant for meat or prefer a vegetarian twist, you can explore both options. To enhance the flavors of the Provencal soup, I often incorporate traditional French sausages into the recipe. Specifically, saucisse de Toulouse, a half-dry sausage with a robust and distinctive taste. The sausages infuse the broth with a burst of smoky, herb-infused goodness. Of course you can use any semi-cured sausages of your choice.
Having made Provencal soup many times, I’ve also explored beyond the original recipe and experimented with different vegetables. These would be seasonal veggies, leftovers from roasts, or a mix of frozen vegetables. Whatever is available. I enjoy adding my own touch to create a unique and flavorful twist.
To recreate the authentic Provencal soup recipe, simply omit sausages in the preparation steps in the recipe below;
Provencal Vegetable Soup: A Taste of Southern France
- 1 red onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 250 g chopped tomatoes
- 1 courgette
- 1 large carrot
- 100 g runner beans
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 2-3 bay leaf
- 2 tsp thyme
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp hard cheese – grated
- salt, black pepper - to taste
- 2 semi-cured sausages of your choice - If you want meat version
- 2 tbsp semolina
- 1 tsp plain white flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp oil
- 1 tsp parsley
- salt, black pepper - to taste
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 80 ml butter
- 3 tsp double cream
- 2-3 leaves basil
- 1 cloves garlic
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- salt - to taste
- In a saucepan, heat oil and add diced onion. Fry until translucent.
- Add sliced carrot and runner beans cut into 1-inch pieces. Fry for another 2-3 minutes.
- (If you are making a meat version, add sliced sausages at this stage and fry them together with the carrots.) Add garlic and fry for an additional 30 seconds.
- Add tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar, herbs, salt, and pepper to taste. Pour in 1 l of water and stir well. Simmer over medium heat for approximately 20 minutes. In the last 5 minutes, add courgettes cut into small pieces. Add extra water if necessary, or if too thin, continue to simmer for extra minutes.
Version with pasta
- Now, add pasta. If you are using large pasta, add only a small amount as it will become too thick once it expands in water. It is preferable to use linguine or very thin spaghetti, cut into small pieces. Stir occasionally so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. If it becomes too thick, add some water.
Version with gnocchi
- In a cup, mix the egg with semolina until smooth. Add oil, salt and thyme.
- Using a teaspoon, slowly add semolina paste to the soup while it is still cooking. Cook for about 5-7 minutes.
- At the end of the cooking process, allow the soup to rest for approximately 15 minutes before serving.
- Boil an egg for exactly 3.5 minutes to achieve a soft-boiled egg. Separate the egg white from the yolk. The white should be firm, and the yolk should still be runny.
- Whisk the yolk with a little bit of salt and vinegar, then slowly add oil, just like for mayonnaise.
- Then mix in cream and continue to stir with a fork.
- Add finely chopped egg white, chopped parsley, and basil, and season with lots of black pepper. Stir well.
- Pour 2-3 teaspoons of sauce over the soup.
- Garnish with some croutons and finely grated hard cheese.
- Peel and crush garlic cloves.In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and a pinch of salt together until you get a smooth paste.
- Add the basil leaves to the mortar and continue pounding until the leaves are crushed and well combined with the garlic.
- Gradually add the Parmesan cheese while stirring continuously.Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while stirring until you achieve a creamy consistency.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.