3(15 oz) cans great northern beans, rinsed and drained (or 1 lb. dry beans, see note)
1teaspoonfresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
1/4teaspooncoarse ground black pepper
In a large heavy bottomed pan, cook the bacon over medium heat. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
Add vegetables to pan and cook until onions are translucent and carrots and celery are beginning to soften, 4-5 minutes.
Add garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring, for another minute or until fragrant.
Add chicken broth, water, beans, bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper, and half of bacon. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook, partially covered, for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Remove about half of the soup, and puree the remaining soup using either a hand-held immersion blender or a traditional blender. Stir blended and unblended soup together and add remaining bacon, reserving some to garnish, if desired.
Slow Cooker Directions: Use dry great Northern beans. Rinse the beans well, and brown the bacon, then add everything to your crockpot. Cook on low 8 to 9 hours, or on high four to five hours, or until beans are tender.
Try a different type of bean. Red beans, white beans, pinto beans, or black beans all work well.
Replace the bacon with diced ham. You won't need to brown it.
Vegetarian? Omit the bacon and sauté the veggies in olive oil instead. Add a teaspoon or two of smoked paprika, if desired.
For dried beans, soak overnight as directed on package, and increase cook time to 60-75 minutes or until beans are tender.