Although many people celebrate the New Year with oysters and champagne, we prefer to follow the traditions of Northern Italy which is to start another year by eating lentils cooked with cotechino sausage.
Cotechino, a specialty of Modena, is a large fresh sausage consisting of pork rind (cotenna), lean pork meat, fat back and seasonings. During cooking the pork becomes a bit gelatinous. We tried the domestic and imported sausage and thought the domestic to be our favorite. The imported Levoni brand was much too soft and fatty, while the domestic Beretta brand was flavorful, delicately spiced and slightly firm. Since both are now precooked, they required just 30 minutes in boiling water.
Start cooking your lentils first, since they take about an hour to soften. I prefer the very tiny brown lentils from Castellucio but the French grown lentils du Puy are also very good. Start by sauteing chopped onion, celery and carrot in olive oil in a medium size flameproof casserole until the vegetables have softened. Rinse the lentils and add them to the saute pan with the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, chopped fresh thyme and rosemary. Add enough chicken or beef broth to cover the lentils and cook over medium heat until the lentils are soft. Add more broth if the mixture becomes too dry.
When the cotechino is ready, slice it and add to the pan with the lentils, so that the flavors mix in nicely. Lenticchie e cotechino are traditionally served with mashed potatoes.
Cotechino symbolizes richness in life in the coming year, while the lentils bring to mind tiny coins to promise prosperity. I hope that you have a delicious New Year filled with warmth, peace, happiness and good health and that your life is surrounded by all the people and things that you love.
Cotechino and lentils available at:
151 Richmond St.
Tel (617) 523-8743