A light, spicy twist on a traditional summer vegetable soup. French “pistou” is a distant relative of the Italian pesto, but my version reflects the Vietnamese influence on modern French food.






Skill level

Average: 3 (50 votes)


For the Vietnamese pistou

  • 1 bunch Vietnamese or Thai basil, chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, roughly chopped
  • ½ small red chilli, seeds removed
  • 5 tbsp sunflower oil

For the soup

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 zucchinis (courgettes), diced
  • 200 g green beans, cut into small pieces
  • 2 litres boiling water
  • 100 g dried pasta (a small variety like orzo)
  • 1 x 400 g tin white beans (e.g. haricots blancs, cannellini), drained and rinsed
  • 200 g fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • pinch sugar
  • freshly ground black pepper

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


For the pistou, crush the ingredients to a smooth paste in a pestle and mortar (or use a food processor).

For the soup, heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and garlic and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent.

Add the thyme, bay leaves, tomato purée, carrots and courgettes, then cook for 15–20 minutes or until the vegetables are al dente (tender but still a little crunchy).

Add the green beans with the boiling water and bring to a boil, then add the pasta. Cook for 10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.

Add the white beans and peas. Remove the sprig of thyme and the bay leaves, then add the salt, sugar and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately in bowls, with a dollop of Vietnamese pistou on top of the soup.


Recipes from Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo (Michael Joseph, 2012). Text © 2012 by Rachel Khoo. Photography by David Loftus.