I suppose swoon-inducing bean soups are a matter of taste, but I had a simple and delicious bean soup last winter that I'm thinking about reprocucing soon.
For me, I guess I like 'em simple.
The soup started with pre-soaked white beans (I think the guy had cannelini, but great northern whites would work fine). Like many other soups, the ingredients were just a simple mirepoix (2x onions, 1x carrots, 1x celery, diced small) and some chicken stock- which he got from a can. What made this soup so good was the pork he threw into it!
He started by dicing slab bacon into 1/2" chunks, and rendering the fat until the pieces were crispy, then taking out the bacon, and adding in diced boudin sausage (the French style, but the Louisiana stuff would be FANTASTIC). He crisped up those pieces, then threw in some diced ham with the onions and started the veggie sweat- adding the carrots & celery when the onions softened and turned translucent, then the beans and broth, then a few sprigs of thyme and oregano and a few bay leaves. Simmer until the beans are soft.
The ONLY flaw in this cassoulet inspired soup was that the cook (my boss at the time) decided to put the bacon and sausage back into the soup with the beans- every mouthful tasted fantastic, but the bacon was soft and chewy and the sausage had a tendancy to fall apart. In a restaurant, the crispy bacon and sausage would be served floating on top of the soup, but for home use, I think the best way around the texture issue is to cut everything into small pieces- every spoonful would get a chewy piece of bacon sausage and ham, but no large slimy hunks.
Heck- I didn't care about the texture- a nice warm spoonful of soup with a lump of bacon in it? Yum!
Market Pantry sells a 16-bean soup mix with ham-flavored seasoning which can found at Target. I think there is a Target everywhere.
There are actually 16 dried beans and peas in the package. You can always add your own celery, carrots, etc. I use a chicken broth from Penzey's spice store. They have pork, shrimp, beef, and chicken bouillon that comes in a jar and is to "live" for. It makes the best stock without all the fuss.
The cooking directions on the package suggests adding a chopped onion, green chilies, garlic and a can of chopped tomatoes.
I am making this soup today and adding some smoked turkey butts. I cook them in a pressure cooker and add them to the soup after it is done cooking. Turkey butts are fatty but impart a nice smokey flavor.
"Best" beans also sell the 16 bean soup mix but I have not found in my grocers.