Want to start the new year with a touch of Italy? Believe it or not, there’s a traditional dish that Italians swear by – Cotechino with lentils. Originating from the Modena region, this divine tasting sausage is made with pork rind and secondary cuts of pork. Served on a bed of lentils, the sausage is sliced into coins, symbolizing prosperity for the year ahead.
A Memorable Encounter
My first encounter with cotechino was in Modena, Italy. Even with limited time in the town, I managed to explore the culinary delights it had to offer. And when I laid eyes on cotechino, it immediately caught my attention. Being a fan of indulgent foods (with a weakness for butter and pork crackling), the specks of white fat on the glistening slices intrigued me.
On that cold day, the idea of warming up from the inside made perfect sense. So I took a bite of a hot slice of cotechino sausage. The texture was melting and juicy – exactly what you would want from a fat sausage. It was neither lean nor dry, but rather a wonderful sensation of juicy meat with mild, sweet spices. Served with salsa verde, it became a dish I couldn’t resist ordering each time I saw it on the menu.
The name “cotechino” stems from “cotica,” which means pork rind. Using the rind in sausage-making is uncommon due to its longer cooking time. Cotechino simmers for several hours, allowing the pork rind to become deliciously tender. It’s the epitome of slow food, requiring patience and care. The lentils, too, need to be soaked overnight. This dish is not one you whip up in a hurry.
You can find cotechino at Italian delis and butcher shops. I even attempted to make my own, but it didn’t quite match the ones from Modena. Disappointed but undeterred, I ended up going with the commercial version. Despite the mishaps and shortcuts, it was a valuable learning experience.
Savoring the Delight
Cotechino is typically served sliced and warm, allowing the fat to melt on your tongue. However, I personally enjoy lightly pan-frying the slices. They are then placed on a bed of lentils, creating a hearty and comforting dish – perfect for a chilly winter night in Italy. While it may not be as suitable for warm summer weather, I did a test run on a balmy night and received no complaints. It felt like I was infused with the luck of the Italians!
So, have you ever tried cotechino? Do you have any new year’s traditions that you follow? Or perhaps a favorite dish from past New Year’s celebrations? And which country do you believe is the luckiest? Share your thoughts and experiences with us!
Recipe: Cotechino with Lentils
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by 3 readers
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 20 minutes plus overnight lentil soaking time
Cooking time: 3 hours 45 minutes
- 1 cotechino sausage
- 2 cups lentils (I used puy lentils), soaked in water overnight
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups stock (I skimmed the fat from the broth from simmering the cotechino)
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley
Cotechino can be found at Italian specialty stores. I bought one at Paesanella in Marrickville.
Step 1 – Begin by cooking the cotechino. Boil a pot of water and place the cotechino in it. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 2.5 hours, or until the cotechino floats to the top. You can then let it cool, refrigerating the simmering stock to separate the fat, which can be used as stock for making the lentils.
Step 2 – Heat a large pot and use some oil or fat from the cotechino to sauté the onion, carrot, and garlic until soft. Add the lentils, bay leaves, and stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook with the lid on for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and cook off the stock for an additional 20 minutes. Season to taste.
Step 3 – Heat a frying pan and slice the cotechino. Add a little oil and pan-fry the slices until lightly crisp. Ladle the lentils (removing the bay leaves) into a serving dish, garnishing with parsley. Finally, place the sliced cotechino on top.
Now you’re ready to savor the traditional Italian flavors of cotechino with lentils. Buon appetito!
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