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Sausage over Lentils and Greens

Celebrate a Traditional Italian New Year’s Eve Dinner with 3 Recipes

A traditional New Year’s Eve meal in Italy is focused on symbolizing abundance and since New Year’s Eve falls on the feast day of Saint Sylvester, December 31 is known as La Festa di San Silvestro. Regardless of the variations that take place region by region, the feast always includes three key components – lentils, pork and grapes, each of which symbolize a different wish for the upcoming year.

The most popular way to serve lentils on Capo d’anno is with pork, a symbol of abundance and bountifulness. In Tuscany, lentils are eaten with cotechino, a large pork sausage, while in Modena and Bologna they are usually served with zampone, which is essentially the same sausage mixture as cotechino, but less finely minced and less spiced, stuffed into the skin of a pig’s trotter, the skin representing the bag to hold the incoming money!

The dinner concludes with dried fruit and grapes. According to tradition, grapes at the table during New Year’s ensures that those sitting at the table will be wise and frugal with their money in the upcoming year. Grapes are also seen to be a sign of good health and Italians are sure to eat at least 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve, one for each month of the year. To ensure that you start your new year off with luck on your side, below are some suggestions for a prosperous 2019.

Sausage over Lentils and Greens


  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups water, broth or stock
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 2 links Italian sausage
  • 1 handful parsley, chopped
  • Sauteed Swiss chard


Heat the oil in a pan. Add the garlic, onion, carrot and celery and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the lentils and bay leaf and cover in water. Simmer covered until the lentils are al dente, about 20-30 minutes. Season the lentils with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the sausage and cook until golden brown on all sides and fully cooked. Slice the sausage and serve over the lentils.

Lentil and Escarole Soup


  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes
  • 2-1/4 cups lentils
  • 8 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 1 head escarole, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano cheese


In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the onion, celery and carrots in olive oil about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes to reduce the liquid. Add the lentils and stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered, about 30 minutes. Add the escarole, salt and pepper to taste and cook until lentils are tender, 35-45 minutes. Ladle into individual bowls and sprinkle with cheese.

Pork Cutlets with Lentils and Pasta


  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 lbs pork cutlets
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup Pinot Grigio
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 3/4 cup small pasta, such as ditalini


Soak the porcini mushrooms in warm water for about 15 minutes, then drain, but reserve the liquid and add it to the stock. Salt and pepper the pork and dust with the flour. Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook veal over high heat until the pork is browned. 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. Scoop pasta into individual soup bowls, ladle stew on top and serve.