Soup au Pistou Recipe

A soup I made for a camping trip to the Sonoma coast - lots of beans, vegetables, and stellette pasta. Tiny stars under the stars, with a good dollop of pistou for each bowl.

Soup au Pistou

Have you ever tried to pitch a tent in 50 knot winds? I can now say, with some authority, it's challenging. On somewhat of a whim, we tossed our gear in the car two days ago, pointed the car north, and set up camp along California's Sonoma coast. There are few places more stunning - golden meadows, craggy coastlines, rambling coastal trails for days. On some trips to this area we are met with dense fog, this time we were welcomed with blue skies, lingering sunsets, and wind that peeled your eyelids back. So, before I finish unpacking the car, I thought I'd share some photos and the recipe for the soup I made for our first night camping - lots of beans, vegetables, and stellette pasta. Tiny stars under the stars, with a good dollop of pistou for each bowl.

Soup au Pistou Recipe

However spontaneous a trip might be, a bit of preparation (even last minute) always pays dividends. I threw a few things together, late, the night before we left. Anytime you camp on the Northern California coast, it can get chilly, so I made a hearty soup (with whatever needed to be used up), froze it, and counted on it to do double-duty as ice blocks in the cooler the first day. I figured serving it with some bright green basily pistou would be just the thing. All we'd need to do is heat it up.

Soup au Pistou Recipe

The best part of camping in this part of California is the coastal walks. The most challenging part is sharing the campground. One chuckle-inducing, abalone-diving neighbor told me he set his alarm for 4:20 a.m. No joke. I can confirm his 4x4 blazed out of the campground well before 5 a.m. He returned hours later, three abalones in tote. They were heavy in my hands, the shells beautiful.

Soup au Pistou Recipe

In addition to the abalone, I also saw: the tiniest yellow wildflowers, no bigger than a pencil eraser; plenty of opportunistic blue jays; a group of teens celebrating their junior high graduation with a camping trip; seals lolling around on rocks; chubby yellow birds that lived in the cliffs and flew like bumble bees; an old Russian fort (!); patches of California poppies; a million stars against a black moonless sky.

Soup au Pistou Recipe

We pitched the tent so it would face this lovely meadow (below). This was at sunset on the first night we were there.

Soup au Pistou Recipe

As a side note, I should mention, for the second night I pre-cooked a bunch of soba noodles, then made a cilantro-serrano dressing with the mortar and pestle. We grilled tofu at the campsite, and tossed it all together. This worked out nicely - let me know if you're interested, I can post that recipe (and more pics) if you want. It would make a nice mid-week lunch as well.

If you try the soup, I hope you enjoy it. It has a bit of an ingredient list, but you can tweak it based on what you have on hand. For example, if I had carrots, I probably would have used them. Later in the summer, I might use fresh tomatoes in place of canned. I based the pistou on Paula Wolfert's recipe. Well, her recipe and what I had on hand at the time. Her pistou calls for grated tomatoes, and grated Mimolette or aged Gouda, I riffed on it with canned tomatoes and aged Gouda. Either way, delicious. We've been enjoying the leftover spread on thick slabs of grilled bread.

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Soup au Pistou Recipe

I made this soup in late spring/early summer. I'd encourage you to substitute vegetables based on whatever is seasonal at the time. Also, I had flageolet beans, but you could substitute other small white beans. Gluten-free readers can simply leave out the pasta, or use a GF pasta.

1 pound / 16 oz / 450 g dried flageolet beans, soaked for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, then drained

1/4 cup / 60 ml olive oil
4 medium onions, chopped
2 medium leeks, trimmed and chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
12 cups / 3 liters water
1 28-ounce can, whole tomatoes, well drained, chopped
4 medium yellow potatoes, chopped
1 bouillon cube, optional
1/4 pound / 4 oz. stellette (tiny star) pasta, or other small pasta
3 small zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup (a big handful) chard stems, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste


1 tablespoon crushed garlic
scant 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 1/2 cups / 2 oz / 60 g basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1 tomato (from above), well chopped
1/4 cup / 60 ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup / 2 oz / 60 g grated aged Gruyere cheese

In your largest soup pot heat the oil, then add the onions, leeks, and celery. Saute for about 5 minutes, then stir in the soaked beans and 12 cups water. Bring to a boil, dial back to a simmer, then cook for about 15 minutes. Reserve one of the tomatoes for the pistou, then stir the remaining tomatoes into the pot, then the potatoes. Cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until the beans seem like they are nearly cooked. Add a bouillon cube if you like, then the pasta, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and the chard stems and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in salt - perhaps less if you used a salty bouillon - essentially, you want to salt to taste. At this point the pasta should be cooked through, as well as all the beans and vegetables. For the soup to taste good, you really need to get the right amount of salt in it - just be mindful of this, and adjust if needed.

While the soup is cooking, you can make the pistou. I use a mortar and pestle, but you can use a food processor if you like. Pound the garlic with the salt into a paste. Add the basil a handful at a time and pound and grind until nearly smooth. Add the tomatoes, then gradually stir in the olive oil a bit at a time. Stir in the cheese, then chill until ready to use.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with a generous dollop of pistou.

Serves 8 - 12.

Prep time: 240 minutes - Cook time: 60 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Wow, such gorgeous photos of your camping site. It looks beautiful.

Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

is it just me, or is there beans in the picture but not in the recipe? HS: Hi Amber, they're in there - first ingredient in the ingredient list.

amber rose

Ooooooh that sounds amazing!! what a lovely trip! and I would be so pleased if you would share your soba recipe with us, too! :) xo


Thanks for a wonderful recipe, Heidi. I am very interested in your recipe for cilantro-serrano dressing! I am a big fan of pistou, pesto, and dressings! Herbs and aromatics-yes!


J'adore! Love the French-inspired post. Just picked up almost all of the Spring seasonal ingredients you list at the Paris market this morning so it's parfait! PS I know I'm a couple of years late (the French are wearing off on my what can I say ? :) but I just lost my tempeh-virginity to your TLT sandwich and it was DIVINE. They say you always remember your first time... I definitely will. Merci beaucoup, Heidi for this and all of your fabulous recipes keeping me well-fed in France!


We go camping at this same spot every year (Bodega Dunes...this year, we're trying Wrights Beach)! Even though we go on lots of little camping trips, we'd been looking for a 'permanent' yearly camping spot- one that we loved so much where we could return each year (so we'd have a little home-away-from-home). We couldn't find a perfect spot- until we camped here for the first time. ...absolutely beautiful~ vineyards, beaches, valleys, forests, and farmers markets galore for us to buy/cook our own food @ night...couldn't ask for anything more! I'll definitely make this soup when we go this summer! HS: Hi Torrie, We've thought about camping at Bodega Dunes, thanks for the vote. This time we stayed north of there - at Salt Point.

Torrie @ a place to share...

Gorgeous photos and lovely soup! Sounds like you guys enjoyed some gourmet food while on your camping trip :). I'd love the soba noodle recipe - sounds great!


wow, what a beautiful place!

Simply Life

Seems like a good camping, pictures and recipe! It is a good idea to go to camping before or after july 4th, to spend some lazy and carefree moments. Now, I am eager to go to one with my family. But with infant, I am not sure how it is going to be. Adventure? Maybe.

Pam @ best Cookware guide

I want the soba tofu recipe! That sounds absolutely awesome! Please pardon my exclamation points, it's just that that dish would really hit the spot right now. Plus, your Pistou really has me thinking. I know that it's traditionally a garnish for soups, but I'm thinking that it could be great in other ways, too, like as a crostini topping.


What a nice break.....I have travelled the coast south of SF but not north - it looks beautiful. Would love to have the soba recipe - I am sure it tasted extra delicious outdoors and by the ocean!


Yes, please post more pictures!


Soba noodles, grilled tofu and coriander? YUM .. I don't think I need a recipe, as soon as I buy some tofu I'm making exactly that! (with not many additions).. but would love to hear your recipe anyways!! The soup looks great. Never seen that kind of pasta before, it's so cute! I guess I would substitute risoni? HS: Hi Ella, yes any small pasta would be a reasonable substitute. And, I'll post the other recipe next :)


Gorgeous photos, such a light, and soup looks absolutely delicious. I could do with a big bowl right now. I'd love to see the recipe for the soba noodles and tofu : )


What a luxury to just be able to just pack up on a whim and camp out anytime you want and enjoy the beauty of Sonoma coastline! I enjoyed your pictures and lovely post.


great idea! I loved reading this post because I'll be camping for the first time this summer. Thanks!


Wow! Amazing photos, and the recipe looks divine :)


Oh, yum! This is so my thing. I really love beans, they're so filling. :)

A Teenage Gourmet

The Sonoma coast is so beautiful and especially this time of year. Great photos! The Pistou Soup recipe looks fantastic and a must try. Thank you for sharing! Enjoy your Sunday!

Lisa {AuthenticSuburbanGourmet }

this soup looks delicious and the landscape is really amazing!


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