Lentils and sausages are served throughout Italy on New Year’s Day and are said to bring good fortune and prosperity. This is a classic recipe from the hill towns of Umbria, where it is prepared with freshly made sweet sausages and tiny green-brown lentils from the fields of Castelluccio. You can sometimes find lentils from Castelluccio online and at gourmet markets. Otherwise substitute plain brown lentils. This recipe is from "The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy" by Domenica Marchetti (Chronicle Books 2006).
- 1 3/4 cups small brown lentils
- 3 cups water
- 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 1 rib celery, trimmed and finely chopped except for a 1-inch piece
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 fresh sweet Italian sausages, halved crosswise (12 pieces)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 2 cups chicken or beef broth
- Freshly ground black pepper
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place lentils, water, 1 of the garlic cloves, the 1-inch piece of celery, the bay leaf and the salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer about 30 minutes, or until just slightly undercooked. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add sausages and cook, turning them as needed, 10 to 15 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Transfer sausages to a plate, leaving the fat in the pot.
Add the remaining garlic clove, the chopped celery and the onion to the pot and sauté the vegetables for 7 to 8 minutes, or until softened and pale gold but not browned. Pour in tomato sauce, stir well and then pour in broth, again stirring to combine thoroughly. Return sausages to pot and add lentils. Season with freshly ground pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes, or until lentils are completely tender. Discard bay leaf and serve in shallow bowls.