Provencal Pistou, Tapenade and Rouille

Pistou (unduly called Pesto in English), Tapenade (pureed olives) and Rouille (garlic thick sauce for fish soup), spicy and flavourful sauces from Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur are jewels of the French gastronomy. Such typical French mayonnaises and pureed vegetables represent some perfect accompaniments for pasta and fish dishes.

Pistou or Pesto?

Both pistou and pesto are made from garlic's and basil's fragrance and olive oil, the names refering to the Italian word "pestare" that means "mash"/ "crush". The first is actually the Provencal equivalent of the second. Both recipes are based on the same technique - originally using a mortar and a pestle - but the traditional Italian “pesto” also includes pine nuts and grated Parmesan cheese. It is often called Pesto Genovese and is worldwide used for pasta.

The "Pistou" recipe has actually more garlic and a little more salt. This simple basil paste has become the essential element of the pistou soup, a typical French soup with beans, onions and leeks. The pistou paste is added at the last moment with fresh herbs and garlic.

Pesto paste is widely enjoyed cold, the French Provencal soup - for which pistou is added to the vegetables about 20 minutes or so before the end of cooking time pistou - is an exception.


This French paste of olives is traditionally made from fresh black olives, anchovies, capers, cloves of garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. The Provencal tapenade is known as pureed olives and is now industrially produced with either green or black olives!

In line with the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur traditions, the tapenade includes fresh vegetables that recall the aromas of Italian, Greek and Spanish gastronomies. Refering to the Provençal name for "capers" tapéno, the tapenade puree of olives can be served either spread on bread, brushed on meat or fish, or used as a dressing with salad or vegetables.


The rouille is a spicy Provencal sauce that usually comes with croutons and grated cheese to accompany fish specialities of the Mediterranean French region. This thick garlic sauce is then a common sight in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur restaurants of fresh fish and seafood. Its typical name originates from "rouïo" (in Provençal), refering to "rust" because of the colour of the sauce. In France, the Rouille sauce, made with chillis or red peppers, garlic, bread and olive oil, is traditionally relished with the Brittany fish soup and the bouillabaisse, Mediterranean fish stew.

Next: Bouillabaisse Fish Stew

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