This week I would like to talk about the Italian tradition of eating lentils on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. At my mum’s house, we can’t say ‘goodbye’ to the old year or welcome the new one without having lentils on our table. Everywhere in Italy, this traditional New Year’s Eve meal is all about symbolizing abundance – very important in what was a very poor land. In Piedmont, rice represents coins—so traditional dinner is risotto in bianco (white risotto). Elsewhere in Italy lots of dishes feature lentils (which symbolize wealth) and raisins (for good luck). Italians cook lentils in many ways, but they are most traditionally eaten with cotechino, a big pork sausage that’s boiled over low heat for about four hours before serving. Although the cotechino from Modena is an IGP (legally-protected) product, it’s also traditional to Lombardy, Molise, Trentino and the Veneto. You might also see zampone, a sausage that comes in a hollowed-out pig’s trotter. When they are sliced, the pieces look like coins… so this too, of course, is meant to give wealth in the new year!
- 1 pound cotechino
- a few bay leaves
- black peppercorns
- 1 pound dry green lentils
- 1 carrot
- olive oil
- bunch fresh parsley
- salt and pepper
Pierce the cotechino with a fork in several places. In a large pot place the cotechino, chopped onion, 1 bay leaf, peppercorns and thyme. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 45 to 50 minutes, if using fresh cotechino (for precooked cotechino, simmer for 20 minutes).
In a large pot combine the lentils, quartered onion, garlic, bay leaf, carrot and salt and pepper to taste. Cover with the 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 40 to 45 minutes or until lentils are soft. Add additional water if necessary
Remove the onion, garlic, bay leaf and carrot and discard. Spoon the lentils onto a serving dish, drizzle with olive oil and slice rounds of the cotechino over the top. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve.
Another popular way to eat lentils is making a soup, usually mixing vegetables and meat.
To celebrate this CAPODANNO (new year’s day) this year I am going to try this recipe: LENTICCHIE DI CASTELLUCCIO DI NORCIA AND MUSHROOMS SOUP, I found it surfing online… I’m sure it tastes as delicious as it looks!
Lenticchie di Cartelluccio di Norcia (named after the village of Castelluccio in Umbria) is one of the best lentils you can find in Italy. They are cultivated at about 4,500 ft above sea level in the park of Monti Sibillini, located between the regions of the Marche and Umbria. Castelluccio lentils are quite different from the other varieties available on the market: the climate and soil of Umbria contributes to their thin skin and soft consistency, allowing for them to be cooked without having been soaked first.
This tradition of eating lentils to celebrate the new year originates from the ancient Roman custom of giving a ‘scarsella’, or a leather bag tied to the belt and containing lentils, with the hope that they would turn into sound coins. The name lentil, derives from the particular lens shape of these legumes, which recalls that of a coin.
Lentils are the oldest legume cultivated by man. Historical evidence suggests that they were already being cultivated in 7,000 BC in Asia, and later spread throughout the Mediterranean basin. Present in the cuisine of ancient Greeks and Romans, lentils were appreciated for their taste and therapeutic properties, being a legume with a high nutritional value, rich in proteins, vitamins, fibre, phosphorus and potassium.
AGNESE RECOMMENDS …
My wine suggestion for ‘Cotechino e Lenticchie’ is Barbera D’Alba, a DOC of Piedmont. This is a ruby red wine, with intense and persistent aromas from Barbera deep colour, full bodied grapes. You will find it rustic and versatile, with aromas of fresh fruit, flowers and spices. It is best drunk young – try vintages 2017, 2018 or 2019. I like the Croere 2017, that you can buy online here: https://www.enosearcher.com/bottle/wine-vite-colte-barbera-d-alba-doc-superiore-croere-2017/ Highly recommended for this dish! A happy New Year everyone!
Whatever you’ll decide to eat to welcome the new year…Let’s all wish to enjoy many moments like these in 2021: