Pork and beans have had a culinary partnership for a long time. Usually, you see them together, swimming in a sweet, tomato-based sauce and served alongside burgers or chicken, hot off the grill.

While this backyard BBQ favorite gets a lot of attention, pork and beans find themselves together in countless dishes from all parts of the world. From the iconic New Orleans red beans and rice to the Caribbean pork and black beans, these two ingredients are not simply enjoyed, but loved. No doubt it’s because they are inherently comforting and nourishing, not to mention economical.

I would also add “warming” to the above list of attributes. And since the cooler weather that comes with a Minnesota fall has descended, pork and beans seem like a natural choice for dinner this week.

We are giving our pork and beans an Italian twist with this Slow Cooker Tuscan Pork, Beans and Greens.

Dried beans and slow cookers are a match made in heaven. Let me be clear, canned beans often make sense on a busy weeknight, but dried beans are more economical with better flavor and texture. What isn’t better is the time it takes to cook them.

Cooking dried beans on the stovetop can take two or three hours and while that time usually isn’t hands on, they will need to be occasionally stirred and additional liquid may need to be added. Using the slow cooker means you’re free to go to about your day while your beans safely cook away.

In the classic American pork and beans, the beans are the star, with the pork, often in the form of bacon, used as smoky flavoring agent. For our Tuscan version of this hearty dish, pork isn’t just tossed in for flavor, it gets equal billing.

Here we are using a pork shoulder, which also benefits from low and slow cooking. Loads of herbs are tossed in, along with onions, garlic and a touch of tomato paste. Baby spinach is added at the end of the cooking process, making this a complete meal, perfect for a cold fall night.

 

Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at meredith@meredithdeeds.com. Follow her on Instagram ­at

@meredithdeeds.