Add the beans, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, celery, sweet potato, onion, crushed red pepper flakes, Parmesan rind, if using, 1 tablespoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper to the insert of a 6-quart slow cooker. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and 4 cups water. Cover and cook until the beans are tender, 6 hours on high or 8 hours on low.
Stir in the kale, cover and let simmer until just wilted, about 10 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan. Serve with toasted baguette, if desired.
If using pasta, spoon 1/2 cup cooked pasta into each bowl and ladle the soup on top. Store the pasta and soup in separate containers.
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