If you are wondering what to cook for your New Year’s Eve dinner and you want to impress your guests with a simple but tasty recipe, which is good for everyone (omnivores, vegetarians and vegans) which will be available on every single Italian table on New Year’s Eve, try this: lentils.
Lentils are a symbol to the Italians. Legend has it that if you eat lentils on New Year’s Eve, at midnight, the next year will be happier, you will be lucky and you will get more money than the previous year. The reason behind such tradition is that lentils can be seen as small coins: while cooking, lentils increase their volume (they pretty much triplicate their size). Thus having lentils is a way to wish ourselves good luck for the next year. I pass this tradition to everyone out there who believe they deserve to be happier and richer in 2021.
Note: there are thousand of recipes for lentils so this is the way I use to cook them, which I learnt from my Grandmother. It has been a New Year’s Eve tradition for decades in my family, long before I was born and I am happy to push the tradition foreward to the next generations.
New Year’s Eve lentils
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery stick
- 250 grams of lentils (serve 6 people)
- 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVO)
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1 liter of water
- salt to taste
Chop the carrot, the onion and the celery stick into small pieces (the smaller the better).
Take a medium size pot, pour 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in it and put it on the fire. When the oil is hot pour the chopped carrots, celery and onion in the pot and let them midly fry. Mix with a wooden spoon to allow the vegetables to fry completely. When they are soft (it takes approzimately 3 minutes at high fire), pour the lentils in the pot and let them toast a bit (a couple of minutes is enough).
Fill a caraffe with 1 liter of warm water (tap water is ok but if you prefer you may use bottled water) and pour it all into the pot.
The lentils will absorb much of the water and part of it will evaporate. The lentils will grow quite a lot and if you fill they are not completely cooked after 20 minutes you can add a bit more water.
After 10 minutes, when the lentils have absorbed half of the water, put 1 tablespoon of tomato paste in the pot and mix unitil it is well distributed. Add salt to taste.
It usually takes up to 20 to 30 minutes to cook lentils but cooking time may vary depending on the variety of lentils you are using.
When the lentils have completely absorbed the water, you are done. Taste them to check if they good in salt and add more if you feel they are too bland. If you want to get some extra aroma from your lentils, when the cooking is completed, you can put some bay leaves in the pot and cover it with the lid so the the steam emanated by the hot lentils will take the perfume out of the bay leaves.
Lentils are usually served with a traditional pork sausage called “Cotechino”. This is a very heavy sausage that must be boiled for approximately 2 hours, which is available at butcheries mostly at Christams time. It’s very tasty but also very high in calories. If you want to stay light you can pair lentils with chicken legs (boiled or roasted) or with roast beef. If you are vegetarian just enjoy your lentils…they are very rich in proteins, thus you actually don’t need to pair them with anything.
Good luck for the New Year, everybody!!!