Pistou To You!

“The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George captured my attention this week and filled my time reading a wonderfully delightful story of Monsieur Perdu a “literary apothecary” who prescribes novels for the hardships of life from his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine. He has a talent for choosing the exact book a reader needs to mend a broken heart or lift spirits.  

He is joined by a bestselling but struggling author and a lovelorn Italian chef, as he travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

A quote from the Italian chef when talking about the French author Marcel Pagnol: “He knew that you can only really see with your tongue. And your nose and your stomach.” My sentiments exactly! 

Another quote from the book: “The chef added between mouthfuls, ‘I’m a firm believer that you have to taste a country’s soul to understand it and to grasp its people. And by soul I mean what grows there, what its people see and smell and touch every day, what travels through them and shapes them from the inside out… Like pasta shapes the Italians.’ ” He was talking my language!

To my delight, there are recipes at the back of the book, along with Monsieur Perdu’s Emergency Literary Pharmacy – “Fast acting medicines for minds and hearts affected by minor or moderate emotional turmoil. To be taken in easily digestible doses (between five and fifty pages) unless otherwise indicated and, if possible, with warm feet and/or with a cat on your lap.” There are several books in this pharmacy that I have put on my to-read list.

I liked this recipe because it used a lot of vegetables that are fairly easy to find year around. 

Whenever leeks are included in a recipe I always cut them up and put them in water to clean. Sometimes they can be quite dirty from the farm or grocery store.

For the pesto I used a food processor and blended the basil, garlic, olive oil, salt and Parmesan cheese together. It was less effort than making a paste with the garlic and then grinding the basil and other ingredients together. However, I can picture the Italian chef in the book standing in the galley kitchen with a mortar and pestle to crush and mash into pesto. 

The recipe I chose to share from the book is Pistou Soup – a staple in Provence. Julia Child also referred to this soup as pesto soup. 

Serves 4

Pistou Soup

The magic ingredient is the pesto (without the pine nuts). I think it serves more than four people, more like 6-8.

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    Vegetable Soup200 grams carrots
  • 250 grams zucchinis
  • 1 leek
  • 500 grams potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 200 grams green beans
  • 4 hardy sweet tomatoes (or half a can of peeled tomatoes)
  • Olive oil
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme, winter savory, and rosemary (I don't have winter savory so substituted sage)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 can (250 grams) white Italian beans (I used cannellini)
  • For the Paste2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon seal salt
  • 3-4 bunches of fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup fresh Parmesan or pecorino, plus more for garnish
  • 5 tablespoons mild olive oil


  1. Cut carrots, zucchinis, leek, potatoes, onion, and green beans into pieces, rounds or cubes.
  2. If using tomatoes, soak them in hot water, peel them and dice.
  3. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  4. Add vegetables, herbs and tomato and stir continuously for 10 minutes on a gentle heat.
  5. Season with salt to taste.
  6. Rinse beans in cold water and water and pat dry on paper towels, then add to the pot with the other vegetables. Pour in 1 1/2 to 2 liters of water (I used homemade chicken broth in place of the water and a dash of red wine), cover and let simmer for 30-45 minutes (or until beans are soft).
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. For the paste: (NOTE: I put all these ingredients in a food processor and mixed until smooth) OR
  9. Peel and chop garlic - blend to a smooth paste.
  10. Mix garlic paste with salt, basil leaves and Parmesan.
  11. Add the olive oil and mix well.
  12. AssembleSpoon the pistou into four soup bowls. Pour in the hot vegetable soup and serve.
  13. Garnish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.


Serve with a nice loaf of bread or substantial bread crackers.


Calories: 427 cal
Carbohydrates: 52 g
Fat: 20 g
Sodium: 857 g
Cholesterol: 6 g
Protein: 13 g
Fiber: 10 g

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