Lentils and Sausage

On New Year’s in some parts of Italy, lentils are traditionally eaten for luck and prosperity (maybe because they resemble coins?). The dish is typically made with a fat sausage called a cotechino, which I don’t think I’ve ever had. I make due with regular sausage. Still, I tend to think of lentils as more of a French thing—perhaps because I remember eating this at a tiny bistro in Paris (known as Le Petite Gavroche, if memory serves) during my romp through Europe on a shoestring budget after college. It’s cheap, and easy, and hearty—real comfort food. You can eat it plain, though I usually serve it with rice. Some folks say you don’t need to soak lentils, but I always do. In fact, I’d usually start soaking them before leaving for work in the morning, so they’d be ready when I came home. I’ve also soaked them, drained them, and kept them in the fridge overnight before cooking them the next evening (life is like that sometimes) and they still came out great.

What you need

  • dry lentils (1 ½ to 2 cups)

  • olive oil

  • garlic clove, minced

  • medium onion, chopped

  • carrot, chopped

  • celery, chopped

  • small potato, chopped

  • mushrooms, chopped

  • sausage

  • bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper

  • chicken stock

  • white wine

lentils and sausage
Lentils and sausage

How you make it

  • Soak the lentils for at least two hours.
  • Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large pot. Add the sausage—I sometimes use a full package (about a pound), but sometimes less. Brown the sausage and remove it from the pot. It’s OK if it’s undercooked.
  • Add the garlic, onion, carrots, celery, and potato to the pot and sauté for a minute or two.
  • Drain the lentils and add them to the pot along with a pinch of salt, pepper, thyme, and one or two bay leaves and sauté a bit more.
  • Add about a half cup of white wine (red will work, too) and a carton of stock.
  • Simmer until the potato is cooked through, about 30 minutes.
  • Stir in the chopped mushrooms. I sometimes add some chopped spinach too, but that’s optional.
  • Return the sausages to the pot and simmer until they’re cooked through, maybe another 10–15 minutes.
  • You can serve the sausage whole on a bed of lentils, or cut it into pieces and stir it back into the stew. If you have some chopped parsley, that makes a good garnish.

Note: you can make this completely vegetarian by omitting the sausage and using vegetable stock or plain water. Also, you can add more liquid to make it more of a soup than a stew. In that case, you can also add some chopped tomatoes toward the end.

Buon appetito!

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