This is a standby in our house. It's easy, is better on the second or third day and is always a multiple meal recipe. It's an extremely forgiving flexible recipe.
2 cups of dried navy beans (or a mix of navy, black, pinto, kidney - or canned if you're short on time.
1 large onion
4-5 cloves of garlic
1-2 T good olive oil
1 bell pepper - green or colored or even one green and one red, yellow or orange.
1 cup chopped celery (optional)
1 large carrot, chopped (if I'm using andouille sausage I generally omit the carrot)
1 large can of tomatoes OR 3-4 chopped fresh
1 bay leaf
1-2 lbs sausage. This can be kielbasa, smoked sausage, andouille, or Italian. It can be pork or turkey, lowfat or not.
1 beer or 2 cups red wine
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
optional - fresh parsley
If you are using dried beans pick them over for pebbles and either soak them overnight or cover them with a couple inches of water and microwave on high for 5 minutes and let them sit for at least an hour. Drain. I've read that dumping the soaking water makes the beans less gas producing. I use canned beans when I'm pressed for time.
Chop the onions, garlic, pepper and sausage.
Heat the oil in a large stock pan over moderate heat. Add the onions and garlic, saute for a few minutes and then add the optional celery and the pepper. Sometimes I add mushrooms or jalapeno peppers at this point. When the vegetables are getting translucent add the sausage and continue to sauté for a few more minutes. Add the tomatoes, the soaked, drained beans (or 3 cans of drained beans) and 4 quarts of water. Bring to a boil. Add a bay leaf and the beer or wine (I love beer in this recipe with kielbasa but now that we're a gluten free household it's wine or nothing). Lower the heat to a brisk simmer and let it cook for a minimum of an hour up to 3 hours. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally - you don't want it to dry out and scorch the bottom.
When the beans are soft check the consistency of the soup - not thick enough? You can mash some of the beans. Taste it and add salt and pepper as you like and maybe some chopped fresh parsley. I don't salt dried beans until they're cooked since adding salt earlier seems to keep them from softening. The sausage adds quite a bit of salt generally. Serve with good bread and maybe a green salad. It'll be better yet the next day.
Most of the seasoning in this recipe comes from the sausage and garlic. Depending on what kind of sausage I use I might kick it up with herbs, a dash of tabasco or more garlic later on.