While you might typically associate pesto sauce with Italy, chef Ludo Lefebvre says that the garlicky green sauce is also quite popular in the South of France— particularly in the recipe he makes during this week’s episode of Ludo à la Maison. Armed with a spread of vegetables he picked up from the farmers’ market, Lefebvre prepares a simple and earthy soup, studded with bites of beans, fingerling potatoes, squash, peas, pasta, and bright Sungold tomatoes as the finishing touch. The pesto comes in at the very end to add fresh flavor. He prepares a batch with a mortar and pestle—his preferred method—and then gently mixes it in to the individual servings of soup. The end result? A dish with beautiful colors that Lefebvre says “puts the sun in your mouth.” Check out his key tips for making the soup below.
Get creative with your vegetables…
Although this recipe calls for English peas, green beans, globe squash, zucchini, and more vegetables, Lefebvre says you can feel free to swap in whatever you find fresh at the market.
…but if you’re using potatoes, stick with fingerling
Lefebvre says they’re very buttery and “perfect for this soup.”
Make sure you soak the red and navy beans overnight
After soaking the dried beans in cold water, Lefebvre then salts them and brings them to a boil, cooking them slowly.
Peeling Fava beans isn’t fun
While he preps the vegetables, Lefebvre says that fava beans are difficult to clean. You have to take off the exterior shell first, and then peel off the small shells around each bean.
Cook the potatoes first
Lefebvre opts to add the potatoes to the stovetop bean mixture first, since they take longer (about 10 minutes) to cook than the fava beans and peas, which take about five minutes.
Pasta is a parent’s best friend
To convince his children to eat the vegetable soup, Lefebvre adds elbow pasta to the mix. He thinks it’s much easier to get them to try “pasta soup” than “vegetable soup,” and proves the theory when his daughter willingly takes a bowl at the end of the episode.
Add a splash of cold water to the soup
Once all of the ingredients are in the soup, Lefebvre adds a splash of cold water. This ensures that the beans and potatoes will keep their shape and prevents breakage—it also slows down cooking. He then turns the temperature down to a simmer.
Seriously, use a mortar and pestle
As he starts mashing up the garlic and basil, Lefebvre notes that everyone in the South of France has a mortar and pestle—it’s the best way to make pesto sauce, and it tastes much better. If you use a Robot Coupe, he says the texture and look won’t be the same.
After Lefebvre has finished the pesto, he checks the seasoning on the soup, and then gets ready to serve it. He grinds in some white pepper and gently adds the Sungold cherry tomatoes—the pesto is the final touch. Then, he mixes everything together gently and portions it out, making sure to get a little bit of everything into every bowl.
Get the recipe here.