Lentils are supposed to bring you good luck for the new year, according to Italian tradition. This tradition goes back a long time and it’s said the little bean’s shape signify coins – thus the association with prosperity for the coming year. I’ve never cooked them before so I was surprised at how easy they are to prepare. I am used to thicker beans that require long soaks to soften them.
For this New Years Eve dinner, I adapted a recipe I found in Breaking Bread in L’Aquila. This recipe comes from Santo Stefano di Sessanio. I didn’t intentionally change the recipe but I did change it because I didn’t have all the ingredients she calls for. Plus, the side note says you can make substitutions and the whole book is about home cooking and using what’s available.
- 1 1/2 cup of dry lentils
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces of pancetta (cut in 1/4 inch pieces)
- 1 large onion, chopped. We used a large yellow onion
- 1 clove of chopped garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound of spaghetti (I used our homemade pasta)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Fresh grated Parmigiano
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley for garnish
Bring salted water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Now, add the lentils, cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy. The official recipe says this should take about 20 minutes. Since I haven’t cooked them before, I did just as directed, however, my lentils were more on the mushy side so I will probably cut back on the time by a couple minutes. I think 17 to 18 minutes might have been best. Once cooked, drain the lentils and set aside.
Using a large pot, cook your pasta. I used the pasta we made on the chitarra but if you’re using packaged dry pasta, just follow the directions on the package. My pasta took longer than expected but it was kind of thick. Like, a .lot thicker than normal but we actually really liked it. Who knew it would make a difference?
While you’re cooking your pasta, heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, onions and garlic. Here’s where we differed. I used bacon because I didn’t have pancetta. Also, we didn’t have enough bacon but we had this with pork roast, so I used some of the drippings from the pork roast to add a meaty flavor. Cook this for about 7 to 10 minutes. I went until the onions were starting to get translucent. At this point, add the lentils, salt and pepper. Also, drain your pasta and reserve 1/4 cup of the water to add to the lentils to make them creamy. To be honest, I skipped the step of adding water because I thought it looked moist enough. Sprinkle with parmigiano and garnish with the parsley.
I wish I had taken a better picture of the final product, but to be honest, my household was too hungry to wait for another picture. I’ll try this recipe again and try to get some better pictures then.