Cotechino with lentils is one of the typical dishes of the Italian culinary tradition. Its consumption is closely linked to the New Year’s holiday, thanks to its symbolic nature as well as it’s culinary one. It represents abundance and is served for good luck for a prosperous and profitable new year, especially from an economic point of view.
It is one of the best and most appreciated dishes made in Italy during the holidays and, a bit like stuffed turkey typical of American Thanksgiving, represents a symbol which the Italians are not willing to give up. The tradition of cotechino with lentils is in fact passed down from generation to generation and each family has its own favorite recipe according to how they prepare it. Its standard preparation requires grilling for a few minutes in the oven once cooked, on a bed of lentils previously stewed and seasoned with spices and various aromas.
An excellent dish for the 31st December
Cotechino with lentils is one of the typical made in Italy dishes most popular with Italians and foreigners. It has always been part of the culinary tradition of this beautiful country.. In principle, the standard preparation is the same throughout Italy: what varies are the condiments some spices and some small tricks during cooking. It is a typical dish of New Year’s Eve and is served, as a rule, during the New Year’s Eve dinner.
Cotechino with lentils: what is it?
Although it is served on the occasion of the New Year celebrations, cotechino with lentils is not, in the most absolute way, a dish one can call “sophisticated”. Indeed, the exact opposite! It is an extremely poor dish, which can be made using very simple cooking methods and which is composed of basically very economical simple ingredients. The cotechino itself does not have an excessive cost: it can be purchased raw or already pre-cooked, to speed up the preparation time of the dish.
The origins of cotechino and lentils
Dishes with legumes have always been part of Italian cuisine. But why is cotechino with lentils cooked on the occasion of New Year’s Eve dinner? What does it represent from a symbolic point of view? The cotechino is made with pork rind, nerves and fresh meat. It is very fat and in order to “gelatinize” in cooking it must consist of poor, non-first choice meat.
It is eaten because it is a dish that anyone could afford, even the poor peasant families. Lentils, on the other hand, are a good omen for economic prosperity: the ancient Romans used to offer piggy banks stuffed with lentils and this dish recalls the ancient tradition.
Cotechino with lentils: the basic recipe
Cotechino with lentils is one of the most reinterpreted Italian recipes of all time. There are hundreds of variations, among which we must mention the famous cotechino with lentils and sauce and cotechino with lentils and polenta, typical especially of the regions in which polenta is used as an everyday food, such as Veneto and Friuli. If you want to try your hand at standard preparation, however, here’s the basic recipe:
Ingredients for 4 people
- 800g cotechino
- Celery, carrot and onion sautéed
- 40g of pancetta
- 1 lt of vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- Salt, pepper and laurel
- Follow the advice of a butcher for cooking the cotechino. Some butchers will sell it already wrapped, otherwise it will be necessary, before cooking, to wrap it in baking paper. The cotechino must be boiled in plenty of water considering 90-120 minutes from the moment of boiling (times depend on the size of the chosen piece). Once cooked, it will be cut into slices about 2cm thick.
- To prepare the lentils, it will be necessary to let them soak for a few hours until they revive. Subsequently they will be poured inside a thick bottomed saucepan (better if it’s a crock) and left to cook for 60-90 minutes, covering them with boiling broth. At the base there will be a sauté that will be prepared letting the onion, the shallot, the carrot and the minced bacon gently cook in two tablespoons of oil.
- Once the basic ingredients are cooked, it will be enough to assemble them to serve the guests an excellent cotechino with lentils.