by Massimo Usai


Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and I wanted to give you some tips on what to eat these days if you’re going to respect the Italian tradition.
The Cotechino (or Zampone) with lentils is a dish that cannot be missed.
Lentils and Cotechino are an excellent second course usually prepared for the New Year’s Eve dinner, but if you arrive exhausted at midnight, eat at least one forkful of lentils and enjoy the dish at lunch on New Year’s Day.
In fact, according to popular tradition, it is said that lentils are a good omen and that they bring prosperity, so a glass of Prosecco and a forkful of Lentils cannot miss at the stroke of midnight.

In general, it is a poor dish, delicious and satiating, that can also be repeated on other days of the year, especially in the cold season.

The Cotechino (which you can very well replace with sausages if you live in a place where the original sausages Italian are easy to find) is a delicious sausage made from pork, and even if it is pretty caloric, I eat it at least three / four times a year.
As with everything, the important thing is to choose a cotechino of excellent quality, and if you live or have been in Emilia Romagna, and you have seen the fresh Cotechino from the butcher, you understand without a doubt what he means by “excellent quality”.

Generally, you buy already prepared, in convenient packaging, but even in this case, choose the quality and be wary of too low prices at the supermarket.

• 500 g a cotechino in a bag
• 200 g dried lentils soaked the night before
• 1 Onion
• 1 stalk of celery
• 1 small carrot
• a tablespoon of tomato paste
• 1 leaf of bay
• garlic
• red wine
• extra virgin olive oil
• salt and pepper

So, broad cook it in its packaging in boiling water for about 20 minutes and then add it to the lentils.
But how to make lentils so that they marry perfectly with meat?
Take the carrot, celery and onions, cut them into cubes or chop them finely, then wilt them in a saucepan with 4 tablespoons of oil, 1 bay leaf, and 1 clove of peeled garlic for a few minutes.
When the scent of sautéed has invaded your kitchen, add the lentils and toast them over high heat for about two minutes.

At this point, add the tomato paste, blend with 1/2 glass of red wine, mix and stew everything over low heat for 25-30 ‘, wetting gradually with 3-4 ladles of boiling water or with a very light vegetable broth and not salty.

Salt the lentils towards the end of cooking and then distribute them on a tray, place the Cotechino on top, and cut them into slices as in the photograph above.