This soup is great for late spring/early summer. You can substitute vegetables based on whatever is seasonal at the time. You could also substitute other small white beans.
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