100g/4oz dried white beans, such as cannellini or haricot blanc, soaked overnight
4 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 bouquet garni of bay leaves, thyme and parsley stalks
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, cleaned and cut into small dice
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
750g/1½lb courgettes, cut into small dice
450g/1lb vine-ripened tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
100g/4oz fine green beans, topped, tailed and cut into 3-4 small pieces
100g/4oz fresh or frozen peas
75g/3oz spaghettini, broken into small pieces, or small pasta shapes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra finely grated parmesan cheese, to serve
Drain the soaked beans. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a medium-sized pan, and the garlic and one of the bouquet garni and cook gently for 2-3 minutes. Add the drained beans and 1.2 litres/2 pints of water, bring to the boil, cover and leave to simmer for 30 minutes -1 hour or until just tender. Add ½ tsp of salt and simmer for 5 more minutes. Set to one side.
Heat the rest of the oil in a large pan. Add the onions, leeks and carrots and cook gently for 5-6 minutes until soft but not browned.
Remove and discard the bouquet garni from the beans and add the beans and their cooking liquor to the pan of vegetables. Add the courgettes, tomatoes and potatoes, another 1.2 litres/2 pints of water, 2 teaspoons of salt and some pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Add the beans, peas and pasta to the pan and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.
Meanwhile, for the pistou, blend the basil and garlic together in a food processor. Add the tomato and cheese, blend briefly and then with the machine still running, gradually add olive oil to make a pesto-like mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove the pan of soup from the heat and stir in the pistou. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve in warmed bowls with some extra grated parmesan cheese if you wish.
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