The Pistou Soup September 28 2019, 0 Comments

 What is a Pistou soup?

It is simply a healthy and traditional Provençal Vegetable, bean and pasta soup from Provence! Each spoon is a golden taste of Summer! No other soup more clearly defines Provence than the famous “Soupe au Pistou”. This soup is part of the History of Provence. The soup originally comes from the inlands of Provence where farmers tend to cultivate some of the most amazing vegetables you can find in the South of France. You will find and taste several versions of Pistou ranging from bean based, ham or purely vegetable ones. Whatever the version, a real soupe au Pistou is the one made with freshly cooked beans and picked tomatoes. Vegetables you pulled or picked a few minutes ago from your vegetable garden. 

With many recipes, every restaurants or villages of Provence have their own method. Generally, it is made of fresh vegetables: you can for sure find the green or marble beans but also zucchini, potatoes and tomatoes. Winter vegetables are forbidden! the Soupe au Pistou is purely a summer recipe! 

For Americans, Pistou can be confusing as it refers both to the soup and Pistou like basil sauce, but no worries! Calisson by Gilles will detail you the Pistou and Soupe au Pistou recipe hereunder. 

Pistou is very similar to Pesto, its world-famous Italian cousin. Pesto is a sauce made of basil, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts. These condiments are vastly used in Italian cuisine. The Pistou is the unknown French cousin. Less famous but as tasty as Pesto! Its application is much different. 

 The main difference is the pine nuts which are used in the Italian version and not in the Provençal one. 

The traditional French version of Pistou is only made with garlic, basil, olive oil and salt. A little paradox: it is very common to see the Pistou with Parmesan, an Italian cheese in a Provençal recipe! You can sometimes also find tomato thrown in for extra flavoring.


What Does Pistou Mean?

 The word itself ‘pistou’ is a Provençal word derived from the latin ‘Pestare” which means to pound. Pistou is made by “pounding” the ingredients together using a mortar and pestle. The mortar and the pestle are part of Provençal gastronomy, you can find these tools in the Aïoli sauce (see our previous edition of June 2019 here:

Calissons by Gilles recommends using the pestle and pound each ingredient in the mortar. Modern times made food processors a very useful tools to gain time and productivity, however using the mortar will do a better job at keeping the flavors and the bright green color of a delicious Pistou sauce. Once you get the Pistou sauce you can keep it up to 2 days at room temperature. 

To store it longer, cover it with a thin film of olive oil and keep it in the refrigerator. The Pistou can be used as a sauce for pasta or as a flavoring for steamed vegetables, grilled fish and chicken. Its best known use is obviously the Soupe au Pistou. The Pistou reveals the entire flavor in this Provençal soup with its wide variety of garden vegetables.  

Do you know the legend of the Soupe au Pistou? In History archives, it has been said that the classic meal of Provençal culture was created in the 18th century by a duchess in order to seduce a marquis during a candlelit dinner. Sounds romantic right? What could be more romantic? Our golden delicacy Calisson by Gilles is the quintessence of romanticism. Our Calissons are made for pleasing, and Calisson by Gilles is happy to be here in your gratifying moments.  Now let’s see how to make a delicious Soupe au Pistou with Calisson by Gilles recipe.

 It’s necessary to make the distinction between the Pistou Recipe (Sauce) and Soupe au Pistou. You can start as you like to prepare first the Sauce or the Soup. However, we suggest you start with Pistou sauce so the fresh basil and parsley have time to develop their tasty aromas.

The Pistou Sauce recipe: 


  •  4 cups fresh basil: Finely shred or cut the fresh basil with scissors
  •  1 cup chopped parsley: Cut the parsley in the same way you cut the basil
  •  1 teaspoon of salt.  (For a better and authentic taste, Calisson by Gilles strongly recommends the use of the Camargue salt, the salt of Provence, unique taste, a perfumed and high quality salt. If you want to discover the unique region of Camargue, Calissons by Gilles made few months ago, a very interesting article (click here)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano



  1. Place 1/2 of the fresh basil, parsley, garlic in the mortar and 1/3 cup of the olive oil. Pound it until you get a smooth purée. 
  2. Repeat the same operation with the rest of the ingredients, adding them to the first batch. Add the last 1/3 olive oil as needed.
  3. Add the Parmesan in it.

Your Pistou sauce is ready for serving. You can use immediately or keep in the fridge up to 2 days. You can obviously make the same recipe in a food processor; you will get a more regular structure but a less traditional atmosphere.


The Pistou Soup Recipe:

The Pistou Soup has become more and more complicated with sophisticated ingredients. Some chefs revisited the Soupe au Pistou in adding exotic ingredients bringing new flavors to the original recipe. Calisson by Gilles will stand traditional in this article and will detail you all the ingredients you need to make a delicious and authentic Soupe au Pistou. 


  •  1 lbs of green beans
  •  2 medium Zucchini
  •  4 small potatoes
  •  3 tomatoes
  •  1 small fennel bulb
  •  150g (5 oz) of vermicelli
  •  Grated Parmesan Reggiano
  •  Water and vegetable broth
  • Salt


1. Pour 6 cups water into a soup pot. The best would be to use a mix of vegetable broth and water. 

2. Clean the green beans, the Zuchini and dice into small pieces. Place in the pot.

3. Core and coarsely chops the fennel

3. Peel the potatoes, dice them and add to the pot.

4. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds (mandatory). Dice the tomatoes and add to the pot.

5. Turn the heat to medium low and cook for about 1 hour.

6. About 15 minutes before serving, break the pasta into 1-inch pieces and add to the soup. Cook until the pasta is done.



Place a tablespoon of Pistou sauce in each of soup plates. Add some grated Parmesan Reggiano to each bowl. Ladle in the soup and stir.

Bon Appétit!



About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.