Soupe au Pistou (Pistou Soup)
|Alternative name(s)||Pistou sauce|
|Place of origin||France|
|Region or state||Provence|
|Main ingredient(s)||Garlic, fresh basil, olive oil|
Traditionally, the ingredients of pistou are crushed and mixed together in a mortar and pestle (pistou means "pounded" in the Provençal language). The word "pistou" was introduced from Genoese dialect "pesto" after being brought into Provence in the 19th century by Italian immigrants from Genoa and Ligury (30% of the Provençal population is of Italian origin). The key difference between pistou and pesto is the absence of pinoli (pine nuts) in pistou. But in Italian restaurants in Nice or Marseilles, even in 1950 in Provence, both pistou and pasta with pistou were ignored by local cooks.
Pistou is a typical condiment from the Provence region of France and from Italian regions that can be served with pasta dishes or as a spread for bread. But it is most often associated with the Provençal dish Soupe au Pistou or Minestrone al Pesto (Liguria), which resembles summer soup that includes white beans, green beans, tomatoes, summer squash, potatoes, and spaghetti. These ingredients can be left out or replaced as long as the soup's golden rule about summer vegetables is followed. Thus pistou soup is not made with, for example, leeks. Some recipes incorporate pistou into the soup just before serving. Others recommend offering the sauce at the table to be added after the soup is served.
Some regions, especially those closer to the Alps, substitute Swiss cheese in the place of parmesan. In Liguria, where there are no cows, Parmesan Cheese is not used. Instead, Pecorino, a hard Sheep Cheese, from Sardinia or Corsica is used. Whatever cheese is used, it is preferred that it not be a "stringy" cheese, so that when it melts in a hot liquid (like in the pistou soup, for instance), it does not melt into long strands.
Both pistou and pesto probably share the same origins. The Roman poet Virgil describes a sauce of crushed herbs, garlic, salt, and olive oil. A version with pinoli emerged around Genoa to become pesto, while pistou evolved in the areas around Nice.