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Vegetable Soup with Basil Sauce (Soupe au Pistou)

Pistou is a paste made with olive oil, garlic, basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to which dried bread, pine nuts or almonds are added as a thickener. It shows the influence of Italy on the cooking of southeast France, especially Nice. Freshly made pistou has an intense, sharp flavor that enhances all the other ingredients in the soup, but if left to stand before using, it can become dull and even bitter. The soup itself varies from a humble one of dried beans and pasta to more elaborate ones that may include fresh shelling beans.
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