Fast, Easy, Cheap, and Local: a Recipe for Slow-Cooked Tuscan Pork with White Beans

A new year full of possibilities and quandaries lies before us. If you’re trying to figure out how to feed yourself and your family more home-cooked, tasty, local meals without breaking the bank, purchasing a myriad of strange ingredients, or spending hours in the kitchen, keep reading.

As Mother Nature has decreed it, the start of the New Year in Minnesota is always a cold one. For me, a salad just doesn’t hold the same appeal this time of year as a hot, hearty meal, so I'm getting reaquainted with my slow cooker. Also known as a Crock Pot®, the slow cooker is not a sexy kitchen appliance. But what it may lack in pizzazz it more than makes up for in its ability to do all sorts of heavy lifting, transforming simple ingredients into something far greater than the sum of its parts, all while you’re off doing something else.

This recipe, gleaned from the pages of my beloved Cooking Light subscription, was tucked away for a couple of years before I finally got around to making it. Since then, the recipe has become one of my favorite standbys - a great way to use an inexpensive cut of pork, the shoulder (Boston butt), and an affordable package of dried navy beans. The other six ingredients are probably already awaiting their call to service from your pantry.

Besides consisting of easy-to-find, inexpensive ingredients, this recipe is fast and easy to make. The beans just need an overnight soak, and the meat can be prepared in advance too. As for kitchen tools, all you need is a sharp knife and a cutting board.

Once you're all prepped, it takes less than five minutes to throw all the ingredients into your slow cooker. Set it to low, head to work, and at the end of the day you’ll return to a house filled with wonderful smells and a ready-to-eat meal.

Slow-Cooked Tuscan Pork with White Beans
Adapted from Cooking Light, October 2007


  • 2 cups dried navy beans
  • 1 ½ tsp dried sage, divided
  • 2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 2 ½ lbs boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 2 bay leaves

Wash and sort the navy beans, and place them in a large bowl. Cover them with water 2 inches above beans. Cover and let them stand overnight.

Combine 1 tsp sage, 1 tsp salt, fennel seeds, and ½ of minced garlic. Rub the sage mixture over the pork. (This step can be done the night before. Refrigerate, covered, until you're ready to place it in the slow cooker.)

Combine the remaining spices in small container. (Refrigerate, if you're not using it immediately.) Drain the beans. Place the beans, pork, remaining spices, water, and bay leaves in the slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 8 – 10 hours.

Discard the bay leaves. Pull the pork apart into chunks and serve with bean mixture.

Serves 8 (serving size: approximately 3 oz pork and 1 cup bean mixture)

With an estimated total cost of less than $15, you will have prepared a meal for less than $2 per serving. Even if you’re not feeding eight people, make the full recipe and you’ll have food left over for a lunch that will make your co-workers jealous. I’d place a bet their $2 frozen meal won’t hold a candle to what you’ll be enjoying.

Kris McDowell is an established writer about tasty things, including cheese and beer. You can read her Beer Musings from Minneapolis-St. Paul on the terrific blog she shares with her husband Mag, and at the site MN Beer.