There is something that is so perfect about pairing a good bean soup with the crisp fall weather. This bean soup is so hearty and delicious and the best part is that it was ready after about 20 minutes of prep time.
The soup gets its richness from lightly browned Italian sausage and a smoked ham hock. I was able to do my searing right in the bottom of my slow cooker using the sear function. Once my Italian sausage was cooked through, I added in my vegetables and let them cook until they were tender and had a little bit of golden color. Then I added the beans and ham hock.
Using a smoked ham hock will add a great depth to the flavor of the soup. If you are unable to find one in your local grocery store or meat market, you can also use bacon or a tablespoon or two of smoked ham soup base.
This bean soup also gets a slight creaminess from adding in a 4-inch section of parmesan cheese rind. Typically, you would throw away this part of the cheese, but from this point on, please keep it in your freezer to use it when you are making your fall soups. I always thought this was a step that could be skipped, but I promise, it really does make a difference.
Save the rind to add in when you get home from work and watch the changes in the consistency of your soup as it melts down. I have to admit, I had almost as much fun watching the process as the boys did.
I finished my soup with 3 to 4 cups of chopped kale and served it with a nice crusty loaf of French bread.
Three-Bean Sausage and Ham Soup
1 pound ground Italian sausage. mild or hot
1½ cups diced yellow onion
1½ cups diced carrots
1½ cups diced celery
5 cloves of fresh garlic, minced (or 2 teaspoons garlic powder)
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes (use more if you like)
1 15-ounce can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 large smoked ham hock
1 4-inch piece of parmesan cheese rind
7 cups water
3-4 cups diced kale
Lightly brown sausage and cook it through using the sear function on your slow cooker, or you can do it in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.
Add carrots, onions, celery, garlic and crushed chili flakes. Let saute for 5 minutes or just until the vegetables start to get tender and develop a slight golden brown color.
Add the beans, smoked ham hock, and water to the crock and give it a gentle stir to make sure everything is combined evenly. Set cook temperature to low and let it cook for 6 to 8 hours.
30 minutes before serving, add the parmesan rind and kale. Stir occasionally so that the rind can melt into the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper if you desire.
Serve with a loaf of french bread or my crusty beer bread.
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