1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 smoked ham shank or ham hocks (about 1.5 pounds)
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups cold water
2 bay leaves
1 pound dried navy beans or cannellini or white kidney beans
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 sprig of fresh
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1/2 cup diced fresh or canned tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Saute the onions and garlic in the butter until translucent over medium heat in a Dutch oven or any heavy kettle with a lid. Add the ham shank, broth, water and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, reduce to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Uncover and add the beans, oregano, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. More liquid can be added at any time if the beans soak up all the existing liquid as they cook.
Uncover and taste for salt. The ham may have been salty enough, but if not, add and adjust. Add the tomatoes, cover and simmer for another 45 minutes, or until the beans are tender and creamy (time will vary depending on the kind of beans you use).
Remove the ham shank to a cutting board, slice off chunks of meat from the bone and serve on the hot beans in a large bowl. Top with fresh parsley.