Whole Foods for the Holidays: Tuscan Beef and Bean Stew Recipe {Crockpot, Main Course}

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Tuscan Beef and Bean Stew - A crockpot recipe simple enough for a weeknight dinner but one that tastes elegant enough to serve at a dinner party. Only real food allowed!

I know it’s pretty standard to serve a big old hunk of meat as the main course if you’re hosting a holiday dinner, and I admit the last time we hosted Christmas Day dinner at our house, we served a grocery store ham.

I’m not sure if I could do that in good conscience anymore, and I’m also not sure I could fork over the dough for a pastured turkey or crowd of well-raised chickens to share with family. (I bet there’s an appropriate word for more than one chicken. I bet someone will help me out with that one.)

I’m the queen of eating out of the box – metaphorically, not literally at all, since boxed food has yucky stuff in it – and hosting a holiday dinner is no different. I don’t really follow the rules.

When we last hosted Christmas Eve dinner, we went for an easy, can-prepare-ahead-of-time main course. We served chili and cornbread. The pot sat in the garage while we were at Mass and went right on the burner when we arrived home. It couldn’t have been simpler, or more delicious.

Find this recipe, updated and with even more frugal tips and transformation options, along with 29 other bean recipes and a ton of information on cooking dry beans, the health benefits of beans, and ideas for bean haters in The Everything Beans Book, available now at Kitchen Stewardship!

I recently tweaked an old recipe that I threw together over a year ago with ingredients I needed to use up, and it’s gotten its share of “oohs” and “aahs” this week. I would definitely consider it as a main course for a holiday gathering, for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s amazingly, restaurant quality delicious
  2. It stretches the meat, thereby stretching the budget when serving a crowd
  3. It’s easy to double
  4. It could sit on the stovetop for an extended period of time, either waiting for people to arrive or allowing a long, leisurely dinner, with second helpings
  5. It can even be made in the slow cooker so no one has to be bustling around at the last minute

Tuscan Beef and Bean Stew

Tuscan Beef and Bean Stew - A crockpot recipe simple enough for a weeknight dinner but one that tastes elegant enough to serve at a dinner party. Only real food allowed!

Tuscan Beef and Bean Stew
Recipe type: Main Course
Serves: 8
  • 2 Tbs. each olive oil and butter
  • 4-8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1-2 lbs. beef for stew or venison roast, cut in 1-2” pieces
  • 2-3 c. beef or bean broth
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 15-oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cans white beans (or 3-4 cups cooked dry beans)
  • 3-5 carrots, sliced
  • optional veggies: 2-3 cups spinach or kale, 4-8 oz. fresh or frozen green beans
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 1-2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1-2 Tbs. fresh parsley
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ tsp. dried
  • shredded Parmesan, to serve on top
  1. In a large pot, sauté mushrooms and onions in olive oil and butter until onions are translucent and mushrooms are nicely browned.
  2. During the last minute, add crushed garlic to the mix.
  3. Add meat pieces and toss until browned as well, then put all the other ingredients except the fresh herbs in the pot.
  4. Bring to a boil and simmer on very low, covered, for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender and practically falling apart.
  5. Five minutes before serving, add the fresh herbs.
  6. Top with shredded or shaved Parmesan to serve.
  7. Makes 4-8 servings.
1. Substitute ½ cup of the broth for red wine; add it first after sautéing the onions and browning the meat to deglaze, then add the broth and other ingredients.

2. Add 8 oz. of cream cheese or yogurt cheese after removing from heat and before serving.

3. Slow Cooker/Crockpot option: Brown the beef and onion in a pot, then throw everything in a slow cooker on low for 8 hours. Make another similar dish in the slow cooker by following this recipe.



I’m very pleased to be part of the Whole Foods for the Holidays Progressive Dinner, hosted by Stephanie at Keeper of the Home today. Find other fancy and practical main dishes there! See all the participants and past courses here. You can still add your recipes to the linkys at the other posts, and we’ll be highlighting our favorites at the end of the round up!

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16 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    That looks delicious. I love soups like that – you can start with dried beans and use that broth all the way through.
    And maybe a flock of chickens would be the right way to say it? Not sure – city girl here :)

  2. says

    We splurge on the pastured bird for our meat on holidays – we mitigate the expense with simple sides and pot-luck dessert, which in and of itself turns into a glamorous buffet – I love being able to oooh and aaah over everyone’s specialties – and of course eat them! – and everyone goes home with a goodie tray. A lot of what we prepare goes into extended meals ie, sweet potatoes w/maple syrup and cranberry sauce go into New Years pancakes, spinach and potatoes and gravy and leftover turkey into pot pie with a cornbread dressing top crust, carcass into stock for dumplings, etc. so I factor those in to make it more…palatable, npi, because it can be eye-popping expensive.

    I think one thing I’ve learned as I’ve moved passed the newlywed impress the family stage is to not stop my meal planning over the holidays, but to actually concentrate it. We eat well for two weeks off of what we include around holiday time, as long as the meals are constructed, rather than just repeated and reheated. (although I could live off of cornbread dressing alone for at least a month).

    Your site is just a wealth of blessings! Thank you so much for all you share. I’m delighted (and relieved!) to have discovered you.

  3. says

    And I meant to add your recipe looks incredible, like I wish I had it right now – my family, husband in particular, doesn’t eat beans! I grew up my whole life having a pot of beans and cornbread for dinner at least once a week. I think I married an alien.

    • Katie says

      You are too sweet – you should make alien hubs pick out the beans on a recipe like this, at least once in a while. 😉 Katie

  4. deah :) says

    I don’t know how you knew I had beef cubes in my fridge that I needed to use, but I’m glad you did. :) this recipe really, really did taste restaurant-quality. I browned everything and stuck it in the crockpot since I had to be out yesterday aftn and it made my evening so much less hectic…and tasted incredible, too. My husband had to work later, so he took his in his office and shut the door to concentrate…a few minutes later, after he finally had time for a bite, he yanked the door open just to declare how delicious it was. TFS…it’s going in the permanent file. :)

  5. Frances says

    What does browning the beef do for the meat/stew? I’ve seen other recipes call for that, but I always just throw the cubes in the crock pot with everything else when I make my regular stew. It turns out fine, so why do more work and dirty another pan?

    • Katie says

      I skip it sometimes (okay, often) too! It does add some flavor from the browning and can possibly seal the juices in. I’m definitely no gourmet chef! :) Katie

      • Frances says

        Thanks for the input, Katie. My husband really liked the Tuscan stew, but he did comment that the meat seemed drier than usual. I will try skipping the browning next time and see what happens. :)

  6. says

    Katie, I just had to tell you that I had bookmarked this recipe and just used it this week for Christmas Eve dinner. I needed something I could make ahead since we were going to church at 4pm. Let’s just say this was delicious and a HUGE HIT!! I was surprised how such ordinary ingredients came together in an extraordinary way. I will be saving this one for other special occasion meals. Thank you!

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