An Italian tradition is to serve Lenticche at midnight on New Year’s Eve, to bring good fortune and hope that you will not want for cash in the following year. The lentils symbolize little coins. Italian dishes tend to be seasonal, so this is an obvious choice for late fall/early winter.
My sister Cheri was a young bride when she married Mario V. in 1980. A few years later they moved to Ostia, Italy. She learned some of her Italian cooking by watching her mother-in-law, but mostly by tasting and recreating what she tasted. The first time she had Lenticchie was on New Year’s Eve at their friend’s parent’s house in Ostia. It was served at midnight, and this was when she learned about the tradition.
Traditionally, Lenticchie is made with cotechino or zampone (this American girl shivers at the thought…Google it and you may too). Being a bit squeamish, Cheri makes her’s with Hillshire Farms’ smoked sausage instead. I don’t blame her one bit! A soffrito starts as the base, and your kitchen will smell absolutely delicious while it’s cooking! Soffrito is a sautéed mixture of carrot, celery and onion, that is very common in Italian dishes. The Latin Americans, Spanish and French do this too, with little variations to the ingredients.
Cheri & Mario lived in Italy for about 4 1/2 years or so, if memory serves me right. They moved back stateside during my senior year of high school. What a neat adventure, to have the chance to live abroad! Anyway, Cheri introduced me to Lenticchie one evening at her home, and I now make it because it’s just so wonderful.
I took the liberty of adding garlic into her recipe, as well as rosemary. They don’t care for garlic, and Cheri will toss in whatever herbs she has on hand as a given, not needing to include it in the recipe. I always use fresh, chopped rosemary when making Lenticchie (and much of my cooking). So tasty. *Note: I don’t have a personal photo of Lenticchie yet, so I’ve used one from another blog until I next make it and photograph it (see photo credit).
1 (16 oz) package smoked sausage (can use beef or turkey), diced
1 bag lentils, rinsed & picked through
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 potatoes, peeled & diced
6 cups chicken stock (maybe a little more)
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. butter/margarine
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. minced garlic (or 2 cloves, finely minced)
2 Tbs. fresh, chopped rosemary (or 2 tsp. dried rosemary)
Salt & pepper to taste
In a large pot, melt butter and oil together over medium heat. Add diced carrots, celery and onion to make the soffrito. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then add in minced garlic and cook until carrots are softened.
Add sausage and about *4 cups chicken stock. Next add lentils, potatoes, rosemary, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook about 45 minutes, or until lentils are soft and potatoes are cooked through. Taste to adjust salt and pepper as needed.
*Important Note: Watch the liquid levels as the lentils soak up the stock, and add more chicken stock as needed to acheive a stew consistency (not too thick, not too soupy).