Ina Fridays — Soups, Salads and Sides — Provençal Vegetable Soup

IMG_5657The first Friday of every month, I blog INA FRIDAYS (all Ina Garten recipes) with a great group of writing cooks who just happen to be big Ina fans.  Scroll down nearly to the bottom to check out the list of blogs participating, then read up and cook some Ina with us this weekend. ♥♥♥

If there is any food more desirous than a simple, full vegetable soup, I don’t know what it is.  (Perhaps a garlicky roast chicken.  Or the most moussey of chocolate mousses.  A big warm loaf fresh from the oven maybe.  But I’m not sure.)  And I’m not talking about the long-simmering vegetable-beef we make mid-winter to use up the last of the pot roasts and carrots.  I mean the lithesome brothy pot-full of just vegetables: onions, leeks, fennel, carrots, potatoes, garlic, green beans, asparagus.  Perhaps a pistou.  But not necessarily.  Maybe some lovely bread, but there are days when only the rind of the cheese in the soup is enough.

(below:  our grandson Rhyan with a whiff of the rolls he helped make to go with the soup.  Recipe here.)


There is satisfying and there is satisfying.  There is big and brawny; there is slim and healthful.  There are slam-dunk messy sandwiches as well as quickly simmered pots of goodness.  Each has its day in the sun.  Its night of satisfaction.


I’ve made Provençal Vegetable soup more than a few times.  It keeps me dreaming of long, hot, languid days in the south of France.  I often make it with only light, summer vegetables–no potatoes, no pistou.  A zero-point wonder. (Click here for that recipe.)  Sometimes I go the whole nine yards…  Ina’s Provençal soup is somewhat in between.  It’s light; it’s not heavy at all.  But it’s full of carrots and potatoes, which make for a fuller soup.  The pistou (pesto to many)– is not the one I usually make; this one has tomato paste and mine never does.  Reading other cook’s notes from the online recipe led me to think that Julia Child, whose recipe Ina first made, included tomato paste or tomatoes, but that the addition was inventive on her part.  Some pistous –or the Italian version which is pesto — contain pine nuts. I think the idea is to use what you have in order so that each person can flavor up a simple soup to her own desire.   Lots of garlic and lots of basil are absolutely necessary, but if you’re making this when no basil is available, be creative and throw in spinach or some other green or herb–parsley would work.  I think you can dream up your own pistou; I don’t believe for a moment the pistou police are on duty.  They’re waiting until summer when they’ll hit Provençe en masse.  In the meantime……………..

IMG_5628I’ll let you in on a few changes I made. One or two because I simply thought the soup was better  and a few others because I had these lovely ingredients that were begging to jump in the pot.  Ina’s notes indicate that the soup may include seasonal — and I read that available on my counter — vegetables.  I took her word for it as I usually do.


My changes:

  • I cut the salt in half.  The soup calls for 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt.  Maybe it’s a typo and should have been 1 1/2 teaspoons?? As Ina’s recipes are very well-tested and proofed, I’m wondering.  She does like more salt than I do and the salinity of the broth is most likely critical here. I added a 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper to the oil at the beginning and 3-4 shakes of Tabasco at the end.  These additions did not make this soup “hot,” but rather increased the flavor.
  • I left out the additional grated Parmesan as I made and served the pistou with the soup. The pistou has 1/2 cup grated Parmesan in it and it seemed enough.  I did add the rind of the cheese to the soup.
  • I used the tomato paste in the pistou and made it as indicated despite not liking the idea particularly.  It was tasty and I put the remainder of the small 6 ounce-can of tomato paste into the soup itself.  It didn’t overly color the broth–just a bit. I served the pistou in a small bowl at the table; everyone put in the amount they liked. (photo below: pistou with tomato sauce a la Ina.)
  • Cook’s Note:  Do give yourself a bit of time to make this. If you chop everything by hand, you’ll need a lot more time than the amount indicated in the cooking instructions.  You could speed everything up greatly if you used the food processor to chop the vegetables and the soup would still be delectable.  Because I love the way the individually chopped vegetables look and taste — and because I wasn’t rushed — I did it all by hand.


  • I added a big handful of chopped parsley, two cloves of garlic,  a cup of chopped cabbage and a chopped fennel bulb just because I like them in vegetable soup.  I included the haricots verts, but also added a few chopped spears of tender asparagus.
  • I left out the saffron because despite knowing I have it somewhere, it refused to give up its hiding space. I keep moving house and some things are maybe forever gone?  OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE! This is the phrase we yelled when we played Hide and Seek as children; it means everyone can come out now.
  • I added a cup of water so that the soup had room to cook down and would stay loose and brothy.

IMG_5635About the olive oil: I do often keep Ina’s favorite olive oil in the house and used it for the pistou. (above)  I use this oil for salad dressings or drizzling on food.  For cooking I use the inexpensive big jars of olive oil from Costco. I typically find OLIO SANTO at Williams-Sonoma.

IMG_5640Here’s the soup out on my front porch.  This is an old 12-quart soup pot and you can see it’s more than half full. This makes lots of soup for supper and the leftovers are perfect for lunches.


Just as I was mid-stride making this soup, I noticed a tiny Yorkie making its way down my street.  I recognized her as a neighborhood dog and, because I know where she lives, ran out to catch her. Daisy appeared to have taken herself on her usual walk sans Mom.  Turns out grandchildren had left the gate open and out she had gone.  Mom was thrilled to see her in one piece, but didn’t know she’d disappeared!  Small dogs and cats are appetizers up on the mesa in Colorado Springs where eagles, hawks, bobcats, coyotes, and bears, who’ll soon be back now that spring is here, are common companions.  (below: a close-up of my flowering crab still in bloom despite the snow)



IF YOU’D LIKE THE SOUP RECIPE, CLICK HERE OR BUY INA’S BOOK BAREFOOT IN PARIS : EASY FRENCH FOOD YOU CAN MAKE AT HOME.  Check out other Barefoot in Paris recipes here.  Read a review of the book here.




This month we have Soups, Salads, or Sides but next month — on Friday, June 6, 2014 –we have gorgeous summer main courses.  Mark your calendar and plan on visiting and cooking.

Stop in this Friday or beyond  and see what all of our fine writers are cooking up.  All writers will not participate every month, but check out the blogs anyway.  If you’d like to participate on a monthly basis, email me at   If you’d like to join in occasionally, just follow the prompt for the “linky” or blog hop and add your post — Ina Garten recipes only, please.

Sing a new song; make a new soup,


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6 thoughts on “Ina Fridays — Soups, Salads and Sides — Provençal Vegetable Soup

  1. Alyce, that is a great choice, love the colors. I like the changes you made. Your saffron comment cracked me up, lol!

  2. Alice, this looks yummy. You know the saffron will be poking its head out tomorrow. Happens to me all the time.

    Linda @ Tumbleweed Comtessa

    • It IS lovely soup; I’m glad you can see it. I’ve made it lots of ways…and am always happy with it. In the summer, it’s a bit more approachable since basil is plentiful…but it’s great with a parsley pistou, too. So nice to “hear” from you, RMW:)

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