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Sarah Holford's Maggie’s Soupe au Pistou

This was given to me by a wonderful friend in Monaco, Maggie, who was married to a local artist called Hubert Clerissi, and who worked as a book keeper for a shipping business connected with my father. When my father died 1976, she helped me sort out a lot of stuff and became a close friend. She originally came from Piedmont but this recipe is very much of the region between Genoa and Nice. Hubert died about 10 years ago but Maggie is still going strong. She celebrated her 90th Birthday last summer as shown in the photo. 

The soup is a wonderful, filling, but economical meal (best made in summer when the veg is fresh) and I have fed many singers with it at Les Azuriales. 


Soup serves 6 to 7 people and can be frozen (best before adding Pistou)

300 grs each of:

French beans




Turnips (mini ones - optional)


Potatoes (the waxy kind rather than fluffy)

Peas (fresh if possible or tinned, or as a last resort frozen)

White haricot beans (tinned are easiest but if using dried probably worth pre-cooking)

2 tablespoons Olive oil

2 fresh ripe tomatoes peeled and pipped (or, if you must, 2 whole tinned plum tomatoes but really not as good)

A couple of sticks of celery (optional as it adds a peppery taste not everyone likes)

2 handfuls of mini pasta (but really mini) baby macaroni is traditional - but hard to find- or mini shells or Orzo

3 litres of boiling water.

Pistou (Pesto)

Large bunch of basil (leaves only)

3 to 4 large cloves of garlic

2 stalks of parsley

60 grams of freshly grated parmesan

Olive oil

Salt and pepper


Chop all the vegetable in s ( apart from the haricot beans) in small dice or thin slices depending on the veg’s type. Heat the olive in a large saucepan or casserole big enough to hold the whole lot and sweat the onions and then add the rest of the vegetables and allow them to soften a little before pouring the boiling water over them. Simmer for about an hour.

Prepare the Pistou (Pesto)

I put the basil, parsley garlic and parmesan in a blender and drizzle the olive oil in until it makes a paste. Traditionally this was done in a pestle and mortar – but life is too short. Add salt and pepper, remembering that there is none in soup yet but you can always add more if not seasoned enough.

Then add the pasta and the pesto to the soup and let the pasta get soft about 5 mins. If you want the pesto flavour stronger cook the pasta and add the pesto right at the end.

Serve with crusty bread and some extra grated parmesan on the side.


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