Italians have always eaten for luck in the New Year. Lentils, coin shaped, are said to ensure financial security in the New Year. In the North, particularly the region of Emilia-Romagna, lentils are traditionally served with delicately spiced cotechino sausage. Try to find the very small Italian lentils from Pantelleria, Sicily or Umbria. These have a richer flavor, stay whole while cooking and tend to cook in a shorter time than the larger green or brown lentils
1 lb. dried lentils (approx 2 C.)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 oz. pancetta, diced
2 T. olive oil
mixed herbs: 2 bay leaves, marjoram, rosemary, thyme
1 C. tomato sauce
S & P
approx. 20 roasted chestnuts, peeled and coarsely chopped
Pick over the lentils, rinse and drain them.
Put the olive oil and pancetta in a sauté pan and cook over medium heat until the pancetta begins to render some of its fat. Add the carrot, celery and onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the whole bay leaves and the lentils, sauté stirring until the lentils are coated with fat. Add about 3-4 cups of boiling water (or diluted meat broth); turn the heat to a simmer, season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until tender but still whole (about 45 min-1 hour). The lentils should have absorbed all of the liquid but the amount can vary. Start with 3 cups and add more if needed.
Add the other herbs, tomato sauce, and chestnuts. Season to taste with S & P. Simmer for a few minutes longer, stirring well. Remove and discard the bay leaves, serve hot.