Italian superstition dictates that wealth, good health and fortune will be bestowed on those who make cotechino their first meal of the year. So cotechino con lenticchie is a New Year’s tradition and it is not uncommon to find families waiting for the stroke of midnight to consume this deliciously spiced sausage sliced atop of lentils.
Growing up this was a meal my Little Nonna made for us on New Year’s Eve so that we could all be together. That tradition carried on for years as I got older and my Dad would prepare it. It is still a tradition in our house, and we share it with family and friends.
COTECHINO CON LENTICCHIE
Sausage with Lentils
2-3 Lbs Cotechino
3 Tbs Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Onions – finely chopped
1 Carrot – finely chopped
1 Celery Stalk – finely chopped
1-2 Garlic Cloves – peeled
1 ½ Cups Small Lentils – rinsed and drained
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Mustard for Serving
If Cotechino is uncooked, drain it and put in large pot of cold water. Water should completely cover Cotechino. Bring slowly to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 3 hours. For packaged (precooked) Cotechino just simmer for 1 hour.
When Cotechino is almost cooked heat the oil in a medium heavy bottom pot and add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until just getting soft. Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes until garlic is flavorful making sure not to brown or burn. Add lentils and stir well until all is incorporated. Add enough cold water or Cotechino water, to cover lentils by about 1 inch. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes over medium heat covered, until lentils are soft. Stir once in a while and add Cotechino water if getting too dry. This will also add extra flavor. When lentils are tender remove from heat, drain of any extra water and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon lentils into serving bowl. Slice Cotechino into slices thick enough not to fall apart and arrange on a platter. Serve warm and accompany by mustard.
Cotechino is a rich and wonderfully spiced sausage and makes for a hearty winter dish. However, for Italians it is a New Year’s Day traditional meal because it combines the two symbols of good luck – the lentil which being coined shape represents a promise of wealth in the year to come and the pig which is believed to be an animal that eats while moving forward symbolizes a year of hope and promise and good fortune. In our house we eat Cotechino several times during the cold months. if you can find Castelluccio lentils from Umbria, you are in for a treat.
Note: I have turned this into a hearty meal by adding peeled potatoes and cabbage wedges to the Cotechino pot one hour before the sausage should be ready. Cotechino is a rich and wonderfully seasoned sausage that makes for a hearty winter dish. For Italians it is a New Year’s Day tradition. Some believe it should be eaten on the Eve while others will serve it on New Year’s Day. In our house we do it either, depending on schedules. And we have it several times during the year, too.