Ingredients: Per 4 servings
- 1 Cotechino sausage, about 14 oz
- 1 ½ tablespoons Toscano Extra Virgin Olive Oil IGP
- 1 onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves
- ¾ lb dried lentils, or 24 oz jarred lentils
- 3 ½ oz canned tomatoes
- 1 cup broth
- salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the lentils, then soak them in a bowl full of cold water for 12 hours. If you prefer, you can used jarred lentils.
Using the tip of a skewer or a fork, poke holes in the cotechino. Place it in a pot of cold, unsalted water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook over low heat for 2 hours.
In the meantime, peel and dice the onion. Place a frying pan over medium heat. Add a little olive oil and, once hot, add the onion, bay leaf and cloves. Once the onion is translucent, but not yet brown, add the lentils, drained of their soaking water and rinsed. Saute for 30 seconds, then add the tomato. Mix well and cover with broth.
Bring to a boil, then cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft, but aren’t falling apart. Season with salt and pepper.
Once done cooking, remove the cotechino and cut off any kitchen twine. Cut into ½ to 1 inch slices. Remove the casing and serve with the lentils. If you like, you can grind extra pepper on top.
When you cook lentils, remember to salt them at the end of cooking, rather than the beginning, so that they don’t remain hard.
Throughout the world, the night between December 31 and January 1 signifies the passage from one year to the next and is considered a reason to celebrate. Italians normally celebrate with friends by eating a big dinner on New Year’s Eve, similar to the meal consumed on Christmas Eve. Some of the traditional holiday foods include zampone, or pork trotter, and cotechino, pork sausage, with lentils. According to tradition, people eat large quantities of lentils because they are believed to bring good economic fortune in the year to come, probably due to the fact that the beans look like little coins.
Once dinner has come to a close, Italians normally party all night long. Each city has its own traditions, however some customs can be found throughout Italy. Fireworks are set off at midnight as a modern-day version of the old tradition of making a lot of noise on the last day of the year to scare off spirits. Another Italian tradition calls for wearing red underwear, which is supposed to bring good fortune in love.
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