Barefoot Contessa Recipe #37: Provencal Vegetable Soup

This recipe can be found in Barefoot in Paris, page 82.

Last Friday, I made a recipe out of one of my favorite BC cookbooks, Barefoot in Paris. I’m not really sure what it is about this cookbook that interests me so much. Perhaps it’s the fancy food. Maybe it’s the fact that it allows me to live vicariously through Ina in Paris. Whatever the reason may be, the book is full of French-inspired cuisine that tastes great.

The original recipe for this soup calls for making pistou, which is basically the French version of pesto sauce. But it is March in New England, so fresh basil is hard to come by and what the grocery stores do have this time of year is expensive and doesn’t look too great. So, I decided to not make the pistou for this recipe.

Overall, this soup is basically a French-style minestrone. Though, personally I prefer the heartiness of a minestrone over this one. There are more layers of flavors in minestrone and this vegetable soup kind of felt a little flat. We had ample leftover and I found myself adding in crushed red pepper flakes each time I reheated it, just to add to the flavors.

This soup uses a vegetable that I’ve never seen in a soup before: string beans. It was a nice way to use this vegetable and spiced up the vegetable soup-monotony that I usually have (carrots, onions, potatoes, etc). Leaving the skins on the potatoes and using white potatoes give the soup a natural thickening agent, especially as it cools.

To keep with the healthier-eating plan that my family and I have been doing, I used vegetable spaghetti instead of regular spaghetti. As expected, once the soup cooled and remained in the fridge a few days, the pasta did act like a sponge and soak up a lot of the excess water. However, it seems that the pasta didn’t “bloom” as much as other pastas used in vegetable-based soups before.

Overall, Provencal Vegetable Soup is nothing to really write home about. While it is easy and can be adapted to use any vegetables you have available to you, the flavors weren’t really there for me. As is common with many Barefoot Contessa recipes, the heavy use of pepper overpowers the dish.

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