French Soupe au Pistou Recipe (Minestrone Soup with Pasta)

French Soupe au Pistou Recipe (Minestrone Soup with Pasta) Recipe

Soupe au pistou is the equivalent of minestrone soup mixed with a bit of thick, Provençal-style sauce. First, I prepared beef stock (you could also use vegetable stock for a vegetarian version), then added white beans, zucchini, carrot, peas, corn, fresh tomatoes and boiled pasta and finished the soup with a few spoonfuls of a chimichurri-like sauce made of garlic, basil, olive oil and flavorful cheeses.

Aria is old enough to eat on her own with her special baby spoon now and she loved the soupe au pistou! I used regular macaroni pasta but you could use thin pasta or cut-up spaghetti instead. I also incorporated two types of cheeses -- Gruyère and Mimolette -- for flavor. If the stock is prepared in advance, this meal shouldn't take too long to assemble.

Ingredients

Yields: 8 servings

6¼ to 6½ quarts water
1 dozen beef knuckle bones (the more, the sweeter the broth will be)
1 dozen oxtail bones
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cups cooked macaroni pasta
2 carrots, trimmed, peeled and diced
1 zucchini, trimmed and diced
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup canned white beans, rinsed
¼ cup frozen corn
¼ cup frozen peas
2 medium tomatoes, peeled (see tips)
7 tablespoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons Gruyère cheese, freshly grated
2 tablespoons Mimolette cheese, freshly grated
1 sprig fresh basil
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons basil leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon green onions, chopped
1½ teaspoons black pepper, freshly cracked


Directions

The day before...

For the beef broth:

In a pot, soak the beef bones in about a quart of water with 1 tablespoon of salt (preferably overnight). The next day, rinse the bones, place them in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the water. Rinse the bones under running water and set aside. This step is important to get clear broth before starting the long, slow cooking. 

Fill a 12-quart stockpot with 6-¼ quarts of water. Bring to a boil. 

Add the beef bones, oxtail bones, sprig of fresh basil, carrots and zucchini. Bring the liquid back to a gentle boil, then lower the heat to a bubbly simmer. Cook for 1 to 1½ hours. Using a fine mesh strainer, regularly skim the impurities rising to the surface of the broth. Once the broth is cleared of any impurities, add salt. Bring to a roaring boil and cook for about 30 minutes, until the broth is reduced by 1/3.

Check the seasoning. Season with more salt (if necessary) and pepper. Adjust the sweetness of the broth. The amount of sugar varies with the amount of beef bones and vegetables.

Discard the sprig of basil. Remove the beef bones, cover with cold water and set aside for about 15 minutes. (Note: The method used to ensure that the meat does not darken as the broth cools down is basically the same as that used to keep vegetables a bright green color). Drain the water from the beef bones and refrigerate them until it's time to serve.

Bring the broth back to a boil for a last time, then remove the pot from the stove. The broth is ready!
If you're health conscious, you can remove the fat from the broth: Let the broth cool to room temperature, plastic wrap the pot tightly and place the whole pot in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve. The fat from the broth may pick up some other odors from the refrigerator if the container is not sealed properly. A layer of fat will form at the surface; it can be removed using a large spoon. You can skip this step by using a fine mesh strainer and regularly degreasing as the broth cooks.


The following day

For the tomatoes: In a pot, heat the oil. Add the onions and green onions. Cook until the color is evenly golden brown (about 5 minutes), stirring frequently to prevent them from burning. Transfer and reserve the fried onions. Add 1 clove garlic to the pot and cook until fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes and cayenne pepper. When the color becomes reddish, season with salt. Transfer to a plate. 

For the pistou sauce: In a mortar and pestle, combine the remaining garlic, the cheeses, chopped basil leaves and the extra-virgin olive oil. Mix until the paste is thick and creamy. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. 

Assembly: In a pot, combine the white beans, peas, corn, fried onions and the beef stock. Bring to a boil, then lower to medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add more water (if necessary; I didn't), add the cooked pasta and shredded beef, cover the pot with a lid and cook for another 10 minutes on low. Adjust seasoning, then add the chopped tomato mixture. Keep stirring every now and then so the white beans don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Turn off the heat and add 2 tablespoons pistou sauce (You could also serve the pistou sauce on the side or add a little in the center of each bowl). Stir well.

Serve immediately.

Bon appétit!


Tips

I purposely do not salt the broth at the beginning but wait to add salt until the bones and beef shanks are fully cooked.

The natural sweetness from the carrots, zucchini, onions and tomatoes eliminates the need to add sugar to the broth.

For the pasta: Bring about 1 quart of water to a boil. Add the pasta, bring back to a full boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. Cook the pasta for about 6-8 minutes total. Salt the water half way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the pasta and it will be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so that it doesn't stick to the bottom. Drain the pasta (do NOT rinse). Set aside in a large fine-mesh strainer until the broth is ready. 

You can store left-over beef broth in containers and place in the freezer. You can keep them up to 6 months.

To ensure optimum flavor from the basil, add the pistou sauce to the soup when the stove is turned off.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on September 25, 2013.


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