I had just bought 3 pounds of cucuzza from the farmer’s market and was mulling over what to do with it. So Mom and I started browsing her collection of French cookbooks for inspiration. While flipping through the pages of Provence: A Beautiful Cookbook, we zeroed in on Provençal Soupe au Pistou. Nothing like a soup recipe to use up lots of vegetables, right? It’s pretty much Minestrone soup but minus the aluminum can. Seasonal, farmer’s market produce is the way go here. Because the ingredients are so simple, you want them to be at peak freshness and flavor.
That being said, you can use whatever vegetables are in season. Right now, it’s that transitional period between summer and fall when it’s cool in the morning and night, but hot during the day. There’s still plenty of summer produce, but I’m ready for warm, comforting flavors. This is a perfect in-between season lunch or dinner.
Inspired by Richard Olney’s recipe, this soup uses cucuzza in place of winter squash and zucchini. Putting the squash through a spiralizer would keep their notorious snake-like appearance, but dicing or slicing it into strips will be just as effective. Be sure to dice the vegetables in small, bite-sized pieces rather than large chunks. This is a soup, not stew.
~*~ CUCUZZA PESTO SOUP ~*~
SERVES: ABOUT 4 QUARTS ⎪ LEVEL: INTERMEDIATE
Mise en Place
For the Soup:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 white onions, thinly sliced
2 leeks, including the tender green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and diced
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
1, 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained*
bouquet garni (4 sprigs fresh parsley, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf, & 1 sprig rosemary)
1 1/2 pounds cucuzza or zucchini, diced or julienned
5 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup broken spaghetti or macaroni
For the Pesto:
4 garlic cloves
1-2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 ounces Parmesan, freshly grated
3/4 cup olive oil
Playlist — Air
While canned is quicker and more convenient, try to use shell beans if they’re in season for that real garden soup look. Dried white beans soaked overnight are also a fine substitute, just boil them in a separate pot for about 1 hour until softened, then add them to the soup.
1. COOK THE SOUP
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks, and carrots, cooking and stirring until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, potatoes, cannellini beans, and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until potatoes are tender, about another 10 minutes. Add the cucuzza, green beans, and pasta. Bring back to a boil and cook for another few minutes until the pasta is cooked.
*TIP* If any foam rises to the top, skim it off with a spoon. These are impurities from the vegetables and will give the soup a bitter taste.
2. MAKE THE PESTO
Place 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, garlic, and basil in a food processor (or mortar if you’re feeling fancy). Pulse to a paste, then add the Parmesan. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil to your desired thickness.
Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the hot soup into bowls, top with a tablespoon of pesto, and extra grated Parm if desired. Traditionally, the pesto is served in a small bowl with a spoon and guests will season his or her soup with pesto to taste. Serve with salad and bread.
Store any leftovers in air-tight containers and keep in the ridge for up to 1 week. Keep in the freezer for 3-4 months.
~*~ WINTER SQUASH VARIATION ~*~
Substitute cucucuzza with diced or zoodled butternut squash. You will need to cook the winter squash longer as it is tougher than cucuzza.
~*~ GF VARIATION ~*~
Omit the broken spaghetti or, substitute with your favorite gluten free pasta brand.
How would you use Cucuzza? Let me know what you’ve cooked and leave a comment below.