We’re currently in that strange week between Christmas and New Years in which the days get confusing. You wake up in the morning wondering: is it a weekday or a weekend, a holiday, or not yet? Whether you are working or not doesn’t easily help in adjusting to telling the days, it’s still an odd week!
With one major holiday behind us, it’s time to start thinking about food preparation for New Year’s! Ooohh, the lentils…Hardly the glory that the seven fishes receive, but nonetheless, should be adhered to just as much as the fish on Christmas Eve. As such, lentils are a must for your New Year’s Day menu. Don’t we all go into the New Year with renewed confidence that no matter how great the previous year was; the one to come will be better, more prosperous and even luckier? Why not increase your odds by serving a hearty bowl of lentil soup?
What do lentils have to do with luck, you ask? Thought to resemble Roman coins, lentils symbolize money and prosperity and are a go-to ingredient for Italians in Italy, as well as Italians living here in the U.S., such as myself. But just lentils hardly make for a full meal, especially for Italians, so on New Year’s Day; they are generally paired with pork of some kind. Usually “cotechino” is served on January 1, which very much resembles a large, stuffed sausage, requiring a bit of time to cook. Pork is considered lucky because its rotundness, richness and high-fat content, which can represent prosperity and wealth. I will likely be preparing a pork loin for New Year’s Day, easier than the cotechino and just as lucky!
Other lucky foods include leafy greens, because they resemble paper cash (hey, there’s spinach in this soup!) and ring shaped cakes, because they represent coming full circle, so the new one can begin. Try my orange and olive oil cake to really have a lucky new year!
- 1 cup dry lentils
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, left whole for later removal
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 to 3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 to 3 pre-cooked sausages, sliced in ¼ inch pieces (choice of pork, chicken, sweet, hot)
- 1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 pound fresh baby spinach, washed
- ½ large vegetable bullion cube
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon dry oregano
- In a large saucepan or mixing bowl, add the lentils and add plenty of water until the lentils are well covered by at least 3 to 4 inches of water. Soak overnight.
- When you’re ready to make the soup, drain the lentils and rinse them under cold, running water and set aside.
- Start by making the soffritto for the soup. In a large soup pan set to low-medium heat, add the onion, garlic, parsley, carrots, celery, olive oil and salt and allow to sauté for several minutes until they become golden and fragrant.
- Add the sausages and allow browning for about one minute.
- Add the tomato sauce and simmer for an additional minute.
- Add the lentils and spinach to the soup pan and add enough water to fully cover all the ingredients, about 6 cups, depending on the size of your soup pan.
- When the soup comes to a full boil, add the vegetable bullion, bay leaf and dry oregano. Simmer over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are fully cooked. Remove garlic and bay leaf before plating. Serve hot with some crusty bread; add grated Parmigiano cheese, if desired.