New Year’s Eve Recipes

There are many dishes that are prepared to celebrate the New Year. In Italy, it is traditional to include at least one dish containing lentils. Here are three traditional recipes to bring prosperity to your household. Even if you are not superstitious, you’ll find the recipes to be delicious!

Zuppa di Lenticchie e Cotechino

(Lentil Soup with Cotechino)

The cotechino-lentil combination is one of the most classic in Italian cooking. A cotechino is a rather gelatinous pork sausage about three inches in diameter and eight inches long. It is very much a winter treat, traditionally served with the lentils that promise good fortune in the New Year. In Italy, cotechini are sold both raw and partially cooked. In the U.S., they are most often sold partially cooked.


  • 1 lb cotechino, or sausage
  • 1 lb green lentils
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf


For the soup…Prepare lentils by soaking them overnight. When ready to use, drain lentils, transfer to a pot and cover with lightly salted cold water. Bring the pot to a simmer, add the remaining ingredients (except the cotechino) and cover. Simmer gently for about 2 hours. Serve the soup hot, with half-inch slices of cotechino (you can also serve it with other meats as a sort of side dish).

For the cotechino…If you have the partially cooked kind of cotechino (in a package), follow the directions, which usually call for it to be boiled in its pouch for about 30 minutes. If you have the raw variety, prick it all over, then place in a pot of cold water (a fish boiler is perfect) and bring the pot to a slow simmer.

Cook the cotechino over a low flame for 2-3 hours. During this time, the cotechino will lose quite a bit of fat and shrink considerably. When finished, cut into half-inch slices and serve at once. (Cotechino is not nearly as tasty cold, nor is it best reheated.)

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Zampone con Lenticchie

(Stuffed Zampone with Lentils)

Look for zampone in gourmet and specialty markets.


  • 1 zampone (about 3½ lbs.)
  • 2 cups dried green or brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 medium-sized onions, peeled (leave 1 whole, finely chop the other)
  • 3 celery stalks (2 cut in half, 1 finely chopped)
  • salt, to taste
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz prosciutto fat, chopped


Prick the zampone all over with a couple of corncob holders or toothpicks and wrap tightly in a double thickness of cheesecloth. Tie off with kitchen twine. Place the zampone in a large pot or casserole on its side and cover with 4 inches of cold water. Bring the water to a boil slowly, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, then simmer another 4 hours (or about 1 hour per pound of zampone, which run anywhere from 2 to 4 pounds). Add boiling water as needed to keep the zampone covered.

Meanwhile, place the lentils in a casserole with the 2 quarts water, the whole onion, celery stalk halves and salt. Turn the heat to medium-high and when it begins to bubble, cook for 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the age of the lentils. Taste occasionally. Turn the heat off and drain the lentils when they are between al dente and tender and set aside. Discard the onion and celery.

In a medium-size saucepan, heat the olive oil with the prosciutto fat over medium heat and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring. Add the chopped onion and chopped celery and cook until golden, about 8 minutes, stirring.

Add the lentils to the sautéed onion and prosciutto fat along with 1 1/2 cups water from the cooking zampone. Simmer the lentils until the water is absorbed. If you have accidently overcooked the lentils so they are already soft, do not pour in the water, simply stir in the lentils until well combined.

Arrange the lentils on a platter. Remove, drain and untie the zampone. Cut it into slices as thick as a finger and arrange on top of the lentils, slightly overlapping them. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Veal with Lentils and Pasta


  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water about 15 minutes
  • 2 pounds veal for stew, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour for dusting
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 1 cup lentils
  • ¾ cup small pasta, such as tubetti, shells, or elbows


Drain soaked mushrooms, reserve liquid and add it to the stock.  Salt and pepper the veal and dust with the flour. Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook veal over high heat until veal is brown. Add the onion and mushrooms and continue cooking.  When onion begins to brown, add wine and rosemary, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer all ingredients to a large saucepan and add the tomatoes and stock.  Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer about 1-1/4 hours. Add lentils and continue cooking about 1 hour.  Stir often to prevent lentils from sticking to the bottom. Cook pasta. Place pasta into individual bowls and ladle the stew over top.




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