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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I'm glad to see you posting a soup recipe! I just posted one on my blog, and felt like I should be doing more summery fare. But I love certain soups in any weather...sometimes it's just what you need.


This recipe sounds so delicious, but I don't do dairy. Do you think the recipe would work without the cheese, or are there any substitutions you can recommend?


The soup looks delicious. But oh my, the pictures of the overcast CA coast bring back memories. We'd frequently travel from Bodega to Cresent City staying in B&B's, shopping, eating and just enjoying the coastal life. I haven't seen the California coast line in 17 years and am now feeling homesick. Living in Idaho now. You've inspired my next vacation. I might even try the soup recipe while our cold spring weather continues. lol I'm enjoying your post. TY


Oh, perfect timing! I have a fresh-cooked pot of flageolets, and the first flush of spring produce from our CSA -- peas, 2 summer squash, spring onions, greens, and the last of last year's pesto to use up. I love this soup, but it had slipped my mind. Thanks for bringing it up, just now. And for gorgeous photos. Smashing, as always.


I'd love to see more pics and your soba noodle + dressing recipe!


I am going camping at Two Harbors over the 4th and would love if you could share that soba recipe. And any other recipes that make delicious healthy camp food. I want to avoid the typical fare. I greatly appreciate it:) And maybe some tips on what utensils to have on hand? Been a while since I've been camping. Thanks!

the French

Thanks for this-I have learned to love "white beans" from you. I have always loved red beans, pintos and pink beans but have tried so many of your soups with white beans that I now love them-especially this one with the famous "pistou" to brighten everything up. OHH! and thank you for the guided trek through our own backyard.

Singing Sparrow

Can you please comment on the use of both onions and leeks. I understand that these are in the same 'family' of plants with the latter having a subtle garlic flavour. When a recipe has garlic in it, can one just use onions (I ask because I leeks is not a standard in my fridge).


Beautiful soup and lovely tale of the Northwest Coastline. I am in envy. I would dearly love to see your photos of the poppies. They are one of my favorite flowers. Although, I guess, if I admit to it, I love them all. Thanks for so much loving goodness in both food and friendship to us all. Bev


I have wonderful memories of making a "Pistou" as an exchange "student" in Marseille. It seemed to be tradition to gather friends to help shell the beans and marinate them while the soup cooks. We were paces from the rough section of the corniche but managed to sneak into a boarded up old bathers club, and swam in the Med. in the aftermath of too much good soup, pistou and vin.

meredith Charpantier

Gorgeous coastal pics! And the soup, so lovely. I'm dreaming now of this soup and your seedy soda bread for dinner. Maybe I can swing it! If only it were as cool here as the coast!


Didn't know you were a camping girl. Another reason to like your posts. I also freeze my soup and use as ice blocks. It works fabulously. I always take tomato bisque..

Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks

heidi-i always love a soba noodle recipe, so please share! my current noodle obsession is your recipe with the miso walnut pesto and asparaugs.


Your recipe and excursion are a match made in heaven. The photographs mimic the density and warmth of the soup. Both I'm sure were nurturing for your body and mind. Flageolet beans?! I never knew about these. I must try them. I've never met a bean I didn't like. I'm imagining myself dipping your Seed-Crusted Amaranth Biscuits into this soup. Yum!


Aww I love the inclusion of stellette pasta - looks so pretty! and hey, that's interesting you saw a Russian fort there! :-o


Lucky you to have such exquisite “nearby” camping for spur of the moment trips. Extra points for standing up to the high wind experience. The pictures and recipes are great. I’m keeping an eye out for the soba noodles recipe.


This soup looks really good...fancy camping meals.. That's my kind of camping...made a similar soup this morning and I will try this one soon...


Thank you SO much for sharing your lovely camping adventure... and soup mmmmm :)


That's nice !

Katy's Eats

Mmmmmmm lovely!

Chocolate Freckles

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