Pistou Vegetable Soup with Mussels

Eric: My aunt Monique in Nimes makes the best pistou. I think her secret is grinding the pesto by hand, using a mortar and pestle. All I did was add the mussels. Maguy: I like this soup when the beans are overcooked, which Eric doesn't like. Since I'm not the chef, I don't always win.

Makes4 servings


Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionFormal Dinner Party

Recipe Courseappetizer

Equipmentmortar and pestle

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealdinner, lunch

Taste and Texturelight, savory

Type of Dishhot soup


  • 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup dried navy beans, soaked in cold water overnight, drained
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and split in half
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of peeled carrot
  • ½ small onion, peeled and split in half
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of ham rind (optional)
  • 1 branch fresh thyme
  • Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • 3½ cups cold water
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Small handful fresh Italian parsley leaves and stems
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed
  • 2½ to 3 cups Fish Fumet
  • ½ cup carrots in ¼-inch dice
  • ½ cup fennel in ¼-inch dice
  • ½ cup seeded zucchini in ¼-inch dice
  • 1 medium-size ripe tomato, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch dice


  1. For the pesto, make a paste with the basil, garlic, and olive oil by pounding with a mortar and pestle or pureeing in a blender. Press plastic wrap directly onto the pesto and refrigerate, (The pesto can be made 1 day before serving.)

  2. For the beans, place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat slightly, and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and discard the aromatics. Refrigerate the beans.

  3. For the mussels, place the olive oil, garlic, shallot, and parsley in a large, wide pot over medium heat. Cook until the garlic and shallot are softened, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and mussels, cover the pot, and raise the heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mussels are opened, about 5 minutes. Strain and reserve the mussel broth. Shell the mussels, discarding any that did not open. Refrigerate.

  4. For the vegetables, measure the mussel broth and add fish fumet, if necessary, to make 2 cups. Place in a medium saucepan with 2½ cups additional fish fumet. Add the carrots, fennel, and zucchini and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, skimming off the foam as it rises, until the vegetables are tender, about 12 minutes. (The recipe can be made to this point several hours ahead; refrigerate vegetables and broth.)

  5. To serve, stir the tomato and the beans into the vegetables and broth. Bring to a boil. Stir in the pesto and remove from the heat. Divide the mussels among 4 soup bowls. Ladle the soup over the mussels, making sure the beans and vegetables are evenly distributed. Squeeze lemon juice over the top and serve immediately.


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