Braised lentils with cotechino is a wonderful Italian dish that is historically served on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. The round shape of the lentils represent coins which is supposed to bring prosperity for the upcoming year. Lentils are very healthy, and are particularly rich in fiber. We love lentils, and use them often in soups, salads and as a side dish as shown here in the photo. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is to braise them to be served alongside roasted meats, sausages, or at New Years with our cotechino. One of Umbria’s specialties is a plate of braised Castelluccio lentils served with their famous roasted pork sausages on top. We bring back a number of bags of Umbria’s special lentils from Castelluccio but since they are not available to everyone outside of Italy, I would suggest using the small green lentils in this dish as they retain their shape better and do not get mushy as the larger orange ones do.
The image above shows the braised lentils served with slices of cotechino on top. Cotechino is a unique fresh sausage made from pork, fatback, and pork rind, that originates from Modena, Italy. It has a very different, soft texture and often comes in a foil pouch that you simply drop into water to reheat. Since the texture is so different, after reheating the cotechino, we slice it and sear it in a frying pan to give it additional color. Cotechino can now be found outside of Italy in many specialty Italian stores, particularly during the holiday season.
by Deborah Mele
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Small Onion, Peeled & Finely Diced
3 Whole Garlic Cloves, Peeled & Minced
1 1/2 Cups Small Green Lentils
1 (14 Ounce) Can Chopped Tomatoes (I Used Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes)
1 (14 1/2-ounce) Can Chicken or Vegetable Broth
Water (About 2 Cups)
2 Bay Leaves
Salt & Pepper
1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and cook the onions until they are translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook another minute or two. Add the lentils, tomatoes, bay leaves, 1 cup water, and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and cook over low heat, adding additional water as needed until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the chopped parsley. Serve hot.