New Year's Day Recipes
The annual rite of consuming good luck food for New Year's Day is observed all over the world. Exactly what you consume depends largely on where your ancestors came from and what was available there during the winter. In Italy, lentils are eaten as a symbol of good luck and prosperity because they resemble tiny coins. Tuscans eat lentils with "Cotechino", a large pork sausage. People in Bologna and Modena eat lentils with "Zampone", the same sausage mixture stuffed into the skin of a pig's foot. In the Piedmont, little grains of rice symbolize money, so New Year's Day menus feature risotto and for added luck, a plate of beef or chicken would be served with spinach and lentils. If you would like to add a "good luck" dish to your New Year's Day menu, we are providing you with several options.
Sausage and Lentils
(Serves 4 to 6)
1-1/2 cups lentils
1 pound Cotechino sausage *
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup pancetta, diced
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 cup Traditional Tomato Sauce
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the lentils in a large saucepan. Add 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil.
Pierce the skin of the sausage all over with the tip of a sharp knife. Place the sausage in the saucepan with the lentils. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Remove the sausage and set it aside to cool. Drain the lentils and set aside.
When the sausage is cool enough to handle, slit open the skin and remove.
Cut the sausage into 1/2-inch slices. Cook the sausage slices in a skillet until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes. Remove the sausage and set aside.
Add the olive oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Sauté the pancetta, onion, carrots, and celery in the olive oil until soft, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, lentils, and bay leaf. Cook over low heat, covered, for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf.
Pour the lentils onto a serving platter and arrange the sausages around them. Serve.
* Cotechino sausage is traditional in this dish but it may be difficult to find.
Substitute any flavorful Italian sausage.
Sausage and Lentils
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
1/2 cup grated Parmesan 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 Parmesan cheese.
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water about 15 minutes
2 pounds veal for stew, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
Flour for dusting
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes
3 cups chicken or beef stock
1 cup lentils
3/4 cup small pasta, such as ditalini, tubetti, shells, or elbows
Drain soaked mushrooms, reserve liquid and add it to the stock. Salt and pepper the veal and dust with the flour.
Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook veal over high heat until veal is brown.
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. Put pasta into individual soup bowls. Ladle stew over top. Serve.
In Roman times, guests were given honey-sesame cookies so the new year would be filled with sweetness. Today we often find these cookies with a teaspoon of vanilla or anise extract added, so you may choose to do that if you wish. The cookies can also be shaped into logs rather than balls.
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup honey
About 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sesame seeds
In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine butter, honey and eggs with an electric mixer until well combined. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Cover and chill the dough about 1 hour or until firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 2 baking sheets.
Form chilled dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in a small bowl of milk then roll them in the sesame seeds. Place balls on prepared baking sheets.
Flatten each ball slightly Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove cookies from baking sheets and cool on a wire rack..
TRADITIONAL ITALIAN SAUSAGE
Great for holidays or when you need to add something special to an antipasto or cheese platter. Cotechino holds a special place in the hearts of most Italians due to the belief that if eaten together with lentils as the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, you will be the recipient of good luck for the year to come.
Lentils are legumes along with other types of beans. They grow in pods that contain either one or two lentil seeds that are round, oval or heart-shaped disks. Lentils are only available dried; they are not used fresh.
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ITALIAN AMERICAN FOLKLORE
Italian-Americans compose one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States, numbering more than 14 million in the 1990 census. Based on published research, fiction and interviews, this work offers an diverting overview of the popular cultural baggage--customs, beliefs and entertainments--that Italian immigrants brought to America (and some embellishments they added as they adapted to their new life).
Little grains of rice symbolize money, so many New Year's Day menus feature risotto for added luck.
For many people throughout the world, pork is the luckiest thing to eat on New Year's Day.
Pork on the New Year's table connotates riches because at one time having a pig to
slaughter guaranteed food for the coming year. Pigs are associated with plumpness and getting plenty to eat.
MORE NEW YEAR RECIPES
The twelve days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day and end on January 6, which is called the Day of Three Kings or Feast of Epiphany. Befana, an old woman is said to bring gifts to children, hoping that one of them is the child king that she refused to acknowledge years ago.
HOLIDAY RECIPES > NEW YEAR'S DAY RECIPES
Lentil and Escarole Soup
Veal with Lentils and Pasta
(Makes 48 cookies)