Slow Cooker Italian Bean Soup

I knew I wanted to make a slow cooker soup this week. This recipe came about as I wandered around the aisles in Publix. I knew onions, carrots, and celery would be a given in the soup. So into the shopping cart, they went. Maybe dried beans of some sort? As I pondered the dried bean selection, I spied Hurst Italian Bean Soup mix, which includes cannellini (white kidney) beans, light red kidney beans, chickpeas, and barlotti (roman) beans.

Italian Bean Soup

A recipe is provided on the back of the package, but I adapted it for tonight's dinner.

1 package Hurst's Italian Bean Soup
1 lb. ground Italian sausage, hot or mild
1 white onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 T. minced garlic
6 cups chicken stock
seasoning packet included with the soup mix
2 cans (14.5 oz.) Italian style diced tomatoes

Place beans in a large bowl, discard any foreign matter or shriveled beans. Cover with cold water and let soak overnight.

You can prepare the following the night before as well.

Brown Italian sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic to the skillet and let cook for 4 - 5 minutes. Let cool for 10 - 15 minutes and place in refrigerator overnight.

If you have time, you can certainly do this prep work the morning you're going to cook the soup. I was leaving for work before 6:30 a.m., so I needed as much prep work done ahead of time as possible.

When ready to cook the soup, drain beans and add them to the slow cooker.

Add sausage and vegetables to the slow cooker along with the chicken stock and the contents of the seasoning packet. Cover and set on high for 6 hours.

During the last hour of cooking, add the diced tomatoes.

When ready to dine, ladle into bowl and top with grated Parmesan cheese.

As we're all inhaling this delicious soup, we started thinking of other variations. How about adding some baby spinach to the pot? And I believe it would be a real comfort food soup served over pasta noodles!

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