Friday, February 21, 2014

Slow Cooker Cannellini Bean Stew with Tomatoes, Italian Sausage, and Kale

Turkey Italian Sausage, Tomatoes, Cannellini Beans, and Kale turn into a delicious stew in the slow cooker!

Slow Cooker Italian Sausage, Kale, and Cannellini Bean Stew found on

(For Phase One Fridays I feature Phase One Recipes from the past that have been my personal favorites.  This Slow Cooker Cannellini Bean Stew with Tomatoes, Italian Sausage, and Kale has some of my favorite flavors, and I love adding the kale near the end of the cooking time so it's still a little chewy in the stew.)

My friend Lydia and I have both become quite infatuated with experiments in our slow cookers, and the experimental part in this Slow Cooker Cannellini Bean Stew with Tomatoes, Italian Sausage, and Kale was adding the kale to the slow cooker after the other ingredients had cooked for a few hours.  I was really thrilled with how the raw kale softened perfectly in the slow cooker with just a little more cooking time, and the slightly chewy kale was one of my favorite parts of this dish!

I'm a huge fan of these lower-fat hot turkey Italian sausages, which have just the right amount of spice for me.

Brown the sausages well in a little olive oil.  (Don't skip this step!)

While the sausage browns, dump the Cannellini beans into a colander placed in the sink, rinse, and let them drain.

When the sausage is well-browned slice it into pieces about an inch thick.

Add the beans, sausage slices, tomatoes, spices, and chicken stock to the slow cooker and let it cook for about 2 1/2 hours on high (or 5 hours on low.)

Wash and chop the kale to make 4 cups of chopped kale.

Add the kale to the slow cooker and let it cook 45 minutes longer on high (or twice as long on low.)  Sorry I forgot to take another photo when the kale was done, but it was tender but still slightly chewy after 45 minutes.  If you'd like softer kale, let it go a bit longer.  Serve hot with a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Slow Cooker Cannellini Bean Stew with Tomatoes, Italian Sausage, and Kale
(Makes 6-8 servings; recipe created by Kalyn.)

I used my Crock-Pot 5-Quart Smart-Pot Slow Cooker for this recipe, but a slightly smaller slow cooker will work.

5 links (19.5 oz.) hot turkey Italian sausage
2 tsp. olive oil
2 cans (14.5 oz.) petite dice tomatoes with juice
2 cans (15 oz.) cannellini beans, drained
2 T minced garlic
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground fennel (or more, I love fennel in recipes like this)
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
4 cups chopped kale leaves
freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Heat the oil in a large heavy frying pan, add sausages, and cook turning often, for 10 minutes or until sausage is nicely browned on all sides.  Remove sausage to a cutting board to let it cool.

While sausage cooks, dump the two cans of cannellini beans into a colander placed in the sink and rinse well with cold water (until no more foam appears.)  Let beans drain well.  As soon as the sausage is cool enough to handle, slice it into round pieces about 1 inch thick. 

Put sliced sausage, drained beans, tomatoes with juice, garlic, dried basil, dried oregano, ground fennel, and chicken stock into the slow cooker and stir gently.  Let cook for about 2 1/2 hours on high or 5 hours on low.

While the stew is cooking, chop the kale, cutting away and discarding any thick inner ribs.  (Wash kale in a salad spinner if you're using garden kale.)  After 2 1/2 hours on high (or 5 hours on low), add the kale and stir gently into the stew.  Continue cooking stew about 45 minutes more on high (or 1 1/2 hours on low).  Serve hot, with some Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

This freezes well and can be reheated in the microwave or in a pan on the stove.  

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South Beach Diet Suggestions:
With lower-fat turkey Italian sausage and a moderate amount of Parmesan cheese, this recipe would be approved for all phases of the South Beach Diet.  Even though dried beans are a low-glycemic ingredient, remember they are limited to 1/3 to 1/2 cup for phase one, so adjust portion sizes accordingly. 

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Slow Cooker Ideas with Dried Beans:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)

Slow Cooker Puerto Rican Black Beans with Sofrito from The Perfect Pantry

Slow Cooker Recipe for Louisiana-Style Red Beans and Rice from Kalyn's Kitchen

Slow Cooker Bean and Cheese Burrito Casserole from A Year of Slow Cooking

Slow Cooker Sausage, Beans, and Greens from Kalyn's Kitchen

Slow Cooker Barbecue Beans and Sausage from Taste and Tell

(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!

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  1. I just shared this on my FB wall. It wouldn't be *quite* as good but it could easily be made vegetarian using veggie sausages and veg stock. Drooling in Charlotte, NC, Trained Chef Miss Maura

  2. yum! I'll have to try this one. I like how you browned the sausage...probably made it taste and look better.

  3. Thanks Maura, and I do think you could make a good vegetarian version of this.

    Hi Karen! I think browning the sausage makes a big difference. Really liked this.

  4. It sound gorgeous! Do you think it would also work if a normal pot was used? I really enjoy reading your blog! Thanks, Róisín

  5. RP You could make this simmered in a pot on the stove, but I would use at least double the amount of stock. The cooking time would also be much shorter, and I'd check occasionally to see if you need more liquid.

  6. This looks so filling, and apparently I'm craving salty foods because I want to eat all of that cheese!

  7. Thanks Carrian; this was definitely a keeper!

  8. What could you use instead of kale?

  9. I think other types of greens like swiss chard or spinach would be good in this, but the cooking time will be shorter.

  10. I have some good dried cannellinis here, and I think I'll cook them in the crockpot for a couple hours alone before I add everything else.

  11. psteve, that would probably be even better. My only caution is to be sure the beans are soft before you add the tomatoes.

  12. Oh, this is completely my kind of dish! I *am* having fun experimenting with my slow cooker, and adding greens toward the end of the cooking is one of my favorite techniques. It's a great way to keep the greens from disintegrating!

  13. I totally wanna make this tomorrow! But I don't have stock. I wonder if using chicken broth instead would make it not as you think you can substitute broth for the stock?

  14. Thanks Lydia. I do think you're ahead of me in the experimenting!

  15. LunaTechChick, chicken broth will definitely work. If the broth you have tastes kind of watery, I would simmer it for a while to reduce it and concentrate the flavor a little more. Maybe reduce by about 1/3 if you have enough broth to do that.

  16. I really like this flavor combo - so comforting!

  17. This has all the flavors of cooler weather that I'm starting to crave! With a good hunk of crusty bread, I'd happily gobble this up for supper all winter long!

  18. So glad people are liking this. These are some of my favorite colder-weather tastes too!

  19. Sounds fantastic. I can't wait to make this. Just bought some interesting chicken sausages with spinach and feta. I think they'd be fine... I do have all the other ingredients, just made a batch of vegetable broth, and it is a rainy Sunday. perfect.

  20. Doren, I think the chicken sausage will be excellent in this!

  21. Classic, favorite flavors in this, Kalyn! We love cannellini beans to begin with -- they make a bowl of food extra comforting. I'll have to try the slow cooker method when I remember to get a small cooker.

  22. Kelly, you MUST get a small slow cooker. It's so much fun.

  23. Turned out really well. The beans I had were really good quality, and are so plump and creamy. I had some bacon grease from breakfast, so I browned the sausages in that. Also had some fresh basil, so I used that too. My crockpot wasn't big enough to hold it all, so when it came time to cook the kale (I had a package of chopped kale from Trader Joe's), I moved everything to the dutch oven and cooked it slowly there.

  24. OMG, I came here to dig up some old favorite recipes (maybe southwest pot roast), and decided to try this one instead. It's the best thing I've made and eaten in a long time! I've had a few taste tests, and it's all I can do to wait for my boyfriend to get here. Amazing. :)

  25. psteve, so glad it turned out for you.

    Amber, so glad you like the recipe. And no worries about posting twice. I know it seems screwy sometimes.

  26. This is rapidly becoming one of my all-time favorite stew recipes! I've had a hard time getting my hands on fresh kale, and I wanted something with a little "chew" to it, so I've been using the darkest, greenest fresh savoy cabbage I can find. It's so good that I'm having a hard time imagining how kale could be better! We don't have Italian turkey sausage here either, so I've been using regular hot Italian pork sausage, but I omit the olive oil and cut it into "coins" before browning it, then pat it down well with paper towels to get all the fat I can out of it. Thanks for this recipe--from my whole family!

  27. Glad to hear you've been enjoying it so much!

  28. THIS was so SUPER DELICIOUS!! i never imagined id love it as much as i do, but i would up eating this every night from sunday to friday!! You just gave me a new staple in my diet thank you so much!!

  29. I found this on Pinterest a while back, and decided to make it today. I absolutely love it! I didn't have the basil or fennel, so I just used Italian seasoning. It didn't need a touch of salt, it's perfect! Thank you!

  30. I am making this today with some chicken sausage. It's not spicy, but it does have roasted red pepper in it. Do you think it will come out ok using this?

  31. I think any sausage with good flavor will be fine. If you want it spicier, add a pinch of red pepper flakes.

  32. Hey Kayln!
    I love your recipes and I make them all the time. I just wanted to tell you about a little trick that I did to this recipe that I think adds a lot of flavor. I used the last 1/4 cup of chicken broth to deglaze the pan that I browned the turkey sausage in, then scraped up all the good "bits" before adding that liquid mixture to the crock pot.

  33. Really good recipe! My whole family liked it. I used regular Italian sausage to make it more healthy. Ha! I also made it on the stove instead since I did not remember it was a crock pot recipe until I saw the recipe at dinner time. Thanks for the tip on adding more liquid for stove top cooking.

  34. I was just wondering if I could use Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts in place of the sausage??

    I don't have any sausage.

  35. You can try it, but I don't think the recipe will be nearly as flavorful without the sausage. Sausage has a lot of spices and seasonings that the chicken won't have. I've never made it with chicken though, so it might still be good. Let me know if you try it.

  36. I never considered putting greens in a slow cooker. Must try this.

    I think I've got most of the ingredients and once the roads improve my husband is going to the grocery store. This would be so perfect for our weather.

  37. I've been craving something like this all week. Thanks for sharing.

  38. I love this recipe so much! Unfortunately, I can't always find Italian sausage where I live, so I tried using smoked sausage (like kielbasa or rookworst) - since it's already cooked I didn't brown it, just sliced and tossed it into the crock pot, and add smoked paprika instead of the fennel. Different from your original, but still tasty. Thanks for putting such effort into this wonderful blog!

    1. Erin I like the sound of that! So glad you're enjoying the recipes; thanks for taking time to tell me.


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