Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean and Sausage Soup


16 ounces dried Great Northern beans
8 cups chicken broth
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cups diced butternut squash
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground Italian sausage
4 cups baby kale leaves
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Pour the dry beans into the base of a 6 quart slow cooker with the chicken broth, carrots, celery, onion, butternut squash, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook on low for 8 hours. Meanwhile, form the sausage into small meatballs and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Take ½ cup of the soup broth and pour into a small bowl. Whisk in the tomato paste until smooth and then add back to the slow cooker. Add the baby kale and then the sausage meatballs and cook for 30-45 minutes or until the sausage is cooked through and the beans are tender. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Serve with shaved parmesan cheese scattered on top.