Place beans in a large stock pot and fill pot half-way with water. Soak the beans overnight OR bring to a boil, turn off heat, cover and let sit for one hour.
Drain beans of all water, rinse and put back in pot.
Add 4 qts. of water, all the vegetables and basil. (You will add the salt later).Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered about 2 hours. Beans and winter squash (if using) should be tender. Add the 2 tsp. salt and some fresh pepper. Wait about 10 minutes for the beans to absorb the salt and taste. Adjust salt as desired.
Keep warm on a very low simmer. The soup can stay on the stove for several hours, if needed. The beans and vegetables will break down more - not a bad thing, just different.
Make the Pistou:
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the garlic and basil leaves. Process until finely minced.
Add the oil gradually and blend well. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.
Just before serving, stir about 1/4 cup pistou into the pot. Ladle soup into individual bowls and pass the pistou around to those who wish to add a little more to their soup.
The recipe can be easily doubled for larger crowds.
Recipe by Jane O'Riordan