Lentils are the traditional New Year’s dish throughout Italy. Since their shape is similar to coins, it is said that they bring good economic fortune in the upcoming year. They may be served alone as a vegetarian dish, or with Cotechino Sausage, a rich pork sausage seasoned with cloves and garlic. The addition of sausage is said to bring good luck into the New Year!
1 pound Cotechino Sausage (fresh or precooked), or substitute your favorite pork sausage
1 pound dry green lentils
4-5 cups cold water, may need to add more as lentils are cooking
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
2 onions, coarsely chopped and separated
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon dry red pepper flakes
6 fresh sage leaves
3 cups Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste
¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
Rinse lentils and place in a large saucepan with the diced carrot, celery, bay leaves, 1 chopped onion and water. Cover and set into oven and cook until tender, about 1 hour. (Cooking time will vary with the size of lentil and whether you have presoaked them or not.)
Pierce the Cotechino with a fork in several places. Place in a large pot with remaining chopped onion and peppercorns, cover with water. Set onto the stove top and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and allow to simmer for 45-50 minutes for fresh sausage, or 20 minutes if using precooked Cotechino. When cooked, drain and set aside.
When lentils are nearing completion, set a large sauté pan onto oven floor and heat for 1-2 minutes. Add olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and sage leaves. Cook for a minute or two, until aromatic. Do not burn. Add tomatoes and cook for about 10- 15 minutes.
When lentils are tender add to the tomato sauce, season with salt, stir and cook 10-15 minutes or until lentils are fully cooked to taste. Remove from oven, add parsley and stir.
If using sausage, slice into rounds for plating. Spoon lentils onto serving plates, top with sliced sausage if using, drizzle with olive oil and serve.