Place the beans into a large pot and cover generously with water. Soak overnight. The next day, bring to the boil and boil continuously for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside for use later.
In a frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
Fry the onion and garlic until translucent.
Add the bacon. Cook until starting to brown.
Scrape onion/bacon mixture into slow cooker bowl.
Return pan to heat, add 1 cup water and stir to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
Tip this water along with all the flavoursome browned bits into the slow cooker bowl.
Add remaining ingredients (including the cooked beans) except for pasta.
Cook on high for 8 hours
About 1 hour before the soup is done, add the pasta and stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve with a generous grating of Parmesan cheese
Dried beans - I buy an Italian soup mix which contains a combination of:
black eye peas
green split peas
If you can't buy a premixed variety choose your favourites. Be sure to choose a combination of lentils or split peas along with your choice of beans.
Should dry beans be cooked in the slow cooker?
It is best to boil the beans for 10 minutes on high before adding to the slow cooker. This will ensure all the toxins are removed and the beans are safe to enjoy.Alternatively use canned beans. I like to use a 14oz/400g can of each - red kidney beans, chickpeas and white beans. Plus ½ cup of red lentils. In this case, preboiling is not necessary. Cooking time will be reduced to 4 hours.
Any small dried pasta will be fine. Don't add the pasta if you are going to be freezing the soup because the pasta will swell and become mushy.
STOVE TOP INSTRUCTIONS
Simply fry onion, garlic and bacon in a large saucepan.
Add remaining ingredients (except pasta).
Bring to the boil. Skim if necessary.
Reduce heat and simmer gently, covered for 2-3 hours or until beans are tender and lentils and split peas have broken down.