This simple but flavorful Italian soup with sausage, white beans and kale doesn’t require any pre-cooking or searing, making it a true slow-cooker meal.
“Okay mom, let’s play the smell game.”
I sort of cringed at the idea. Sweaty feet. Burnt toast. The 4th hole at the golf course that sits next to the water treatment plant and man does it reek when the wind blows.
Why do I immediately go to the dark side?
“Okay. What’s the smell game?” But of course I already know.
“It’s where we say the things we think smell the best. You go first.”
I thought for a minute. More like seconds. Immediately those gross smells vanished to make way for the good.
The smell of burnt pumpkins after being lit too closely to their lids on Halloween night.
Summer rain on black top.
The smell of Gardenias and tuberose.
Puppy breath. Only to be outdone by the nuzzle spot right below the ear in the crook of the neck of a newborn baby that’s a mixed perfume of milky baby lotion.
And of course, the obvious at our house. Food cooking in the kitchen.
From steaks grilling to cookies baking, food that’s cooking in the kitchen just might possibly be the most universally loved smell of all.
It’s one reason I love cooking in the slow cooker. It’s perfume lingers on low for eight hours or on high for four.
The other reason I love the slow cooker is for sheer ease. And this recipe is really one of the easiest. And deceptively so.
About the Recipe
This is a true slow cooker meal with no need for frying or pre-cooking. It’s cooked in two stages to ensure freshness. First, the dried beans are cooked with the veggies on low for 8 hours for a perfectly cooked bean. With this recipe there’s no need for soaking your beans before but if you really need to, go ahead and soak the beans overnight in water. This article explains more about slow cooking beans.
The meatballs are simply made from Italian sausage that’s rolled into mini meatballs. The fat in the sausage balls keeps them from needing a sear before cooking as it acts as the glue holding the meat together. For presentations sake, if you want a browner meatball, you could sear them before, but seriously, they’ll taste the same.
I used baby kale leaves in this recipe but curly kale or swiss chard would be tempting alternatives. I also added butternut squash simply because I had it in my fridge and figured, why not? Add other vegetables as you see fit, or as you need to empty your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Bookmark this recipe and leave a comment below, or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
- 16 ounces dried Great Northern beans
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cups diced butternut squash
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 4 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground Italian sausage
- 4 cups baby kale leaves
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- Shaved Parmesan cheese
- Pour the dry beans into the base of a 6 quart slow cooker with the chicken broth, carrots, celery, onion, butternut squash, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook on low for 8 hours. Meanwhile, form the sausage into small meatballs and refrigerate until ready to cook.
- Take ½ cup of the soup broth and pour into a small bowl. Whisk in the tomato paste until smooth and then add back to the slow cooker. Add the baby kale and then the sausage meatballs and cook for 30-45 minutes or until the sausage is cooked through and the beans are tender. Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Serve with shaved parmesan cheese scattered on top.
Have a great day guys, and get in the kitchen to cook something good!
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