1 cup cooked and crumbled bacon (or try 1 1/2 cups cooked and crumbled Italian sausage)
1 cup diced cooked ham
1/2 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 ham bone or ham hock (optional but adds a ton of flavor to the broth)
Soak dried beans
Add beans to a large bowl, cover with water and soak overnight according to package directions. Drain and rinse.
Add beans along with remaining ingredients to a large slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for about 10 hours or on high for about 6 if you using dried beans. If using canned beans cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours.
Remove ham bone. Taste soup and season with additional salt if needed.
For a thicker/creamier soup – Scoop 1 cup mixture of beans with broth and place in a blender and blend until smooth. Add more liquid if mixture is too thick in blender. Stir back into soup. Reduce to warm and cook for about 30 minutes longer. This will make the soup nice and creamy.