By Mattison_Ave, member
Posted: March 5th, 2012
Sift through your beans, discarding any little stones or clumps of dirt, and give them a quick rinse. Transfer to a large bowl, add enough cold water to cover the beans by 3 inches, and soak for 4 to 12 hours.
Drain and rinse the beans and transfer them to a 3- or 4-quart saucepan. Add the smashed garlic clove, bay leaf, and 6 cups cold water. Partially cover to limit evaporation and simmer gently, stirring every 20 to 30 minutes, until the beans are tender and almost creamy inside, without being mealy or mushy, approximately 1 to 1-1/2 hours. The beans' cooking time will vary depending on how old they are and how long they've soaked. So the safest way to determine when the beans are done is to taste them as they cook.
Season with 3/4 tsp. kosher salt when the beans are about three-quarters done. If at any time the liquid doesn't cover the beans, add 1 cup fresh water.
Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid, and discard the bay leaf (the garlic clove can stay).
Heat the olive oil or butter in a 4- to 5-qt. soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring often, until the fat is rendered and the sausage begins to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Pour the sausage and fat into a small strainer set over a bowl, and set the sausage aside. Spoon 2 Tbs. of fat back into the pot and return it to medium heat.
Add the onions and shallots and season with a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften but not brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
Add the red pepper flakes and minced garlic, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more.
Add the potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots, stirring to incorporate with the seasonings and aromatics, and then add 2 cups of broth, partially cover, and simmer until the vegetables are just barely tender, 10 to 20 minutes.
Add the beans and then add the reserved juice from the canned tomatoes, 1 cup of the reserved bean-cooking liquid, and enough broth to bring the total amount of liquid to 4 cups.
Return the cooked meat to the pot. Stir to combine and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes to meld the flavors.
Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with a splash of hot sauce, salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls and garnish each serving with Parmigiano and croutons.
Make-Ahead Note: You can cook the beans one day ahead; refrigerate the beans and the cooking liquid separately until you make the soup. The finished soup will keep in the fridge for three or four days, tightly covered. Or you can freeze it for up to three months.