Cotechino and Lentils: a recipe for New Year's Eve

Cotechino and Lentils Two typical pork products prepared on New Year's Eve [in Italian: Vigilia di Capodanno, or San Silvestro] are cotechino and zampone; in the former, pork meat is inserted in the natural rind ("cotica") whereas in the zampone it is inserted into the leg ("zampa"). It was a peasants' dish usually accompanied by legumes. It is also described in recipe No. 322 in the seminal work on Italian cuisine by Pellegrino Artusi, La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiar bene, published in 1910.


The birth of the zampone can be traced back to 1511, when the troops of Pope Julius II Della Rovere besieged Mirandola, near Modena (which is, by the way, the cradle of both products). Towards the end of the siege the people of Mirandola were very hungry, but they had only their pigs left, which they were not willing to give to the enemy. Even if they had slaughtered all the animals, they could not have eaten them all. But a chef of the famous Pico della Mirandola had a grat idea «Let's put the leaner pork meat in a casing formed by the skin of he pig's legs, so it will not rot, and we may store and cook it later».

Language Corner

When in Italian we say of someone that he is a "cotica", this means he's very stingy.

Well-Wishing Food

The custom of eating lentils during the dinner of the "Vigilia di Capodanno" or "San Silvestro" - as New Year's Eve is known in Italy - derives from an ancient tradition to give, on December 31st, as a present a purse full of lentils, each of which was supposed to turn into a coin. It may also be connected to the biblical story of Esau, who gave away for a dish of lentils what he had most precious, his birthright.

Other good luck dishes are rice, tangerines, grapes, pomegranate, chard, red peppers, Buddha's hand, while lobster and crabs (they walk backwards) are absolutely deprecated!

Ciao, sono Eva! Oggi prepariamo le lenticchie col cotechino.
Hello, I am Eva! Today we'll prepare lentils with "cotechino" sausage.
Ingredienti: un cotechino da 400 grammi, 200 grammi di lenticchie, io uso queste qua piccoline che sono più gustose,
Ingredients: a cotechino of 400 grams, 200 grams lentils, I will use these small ones here, that are tastier.
I gusti, cipolla, prezzemolo, sedano, aglio e carota, un po' di salsa, sale e pepe.
The spices, onion, parsley, celery, carrot and garlic, a little tomato sauce, salt and pepper.
Dimenticavo di dirvi che lascio nell'acqua per 20 minuti le lenticchie.
I forgot to tell you that I left the lentils in water for 20 minutes.
Con la forchetta, faccio dei fori così, così fuoriesce il grasso, lo metto nell'acqua e lo lascio cuocere per un'ora e mezza.
With a fork, I'm making holes like this, so the fat comes out, I'll put it in the water and let cook for an hour and a half.
Dopo che ho lavato le lenticchie, le metto nella pentola e ci aggiungo l'acqua fredda mi raccomando, e le metto sul fuoco.
After I washed the lentils, I put them in a pot and add water, cold absolutely, and put them on the fire.
Quando bolle ci aggiungiamo i gusti: un po' di pepe, un cucchiaio di salsa tanto da colorarlo un po', e il sale quanto basta. Così!
When it boils we'll add the vegetables: a little pepper, a tablespoon of tomato sauce just to color it a bit, and salt to taste. Like this!
Lasciare cuocere per mezz'ora. Affetto il cotechino così, metterò via tutte le pellicine così, che a me non piace.
Let it cook for half an hour. I'm slicing the cotechino like this, and put away all the cuticles, that I do not like.
Ora prendo tutti i gusti, li metto qui che li frulliamo, io l'aglio ce lo aggiungo perché a me piace, se a qualcuno non piace lo tira via.
Now I'll take all the vegetables, I'm putting them here that we'll squash them, I'll add garlic because I like it, if someone does not like it just remove it.
Ci metto un po' di acquetta così si frulla meglio. Rimettiamo tutto nelle lenticchie.
I'm putting a little water so it blends better. Let's put everything back with the lentils.
Dopo aver mischiato il tutto, se volete aggiungere un po' di olio, così, a crudo, ecco mischiamo tutto, poi ci aggiungo il cotechino.
After stirring everything, if you want you can add a little oil, like this, raw, now we'll stir everything, and then I'll add the cotechino.
Ecco, e lascio cuocere per ancora 5 minuti, e il piatto è pronto!
Here, and I'll let cook for another 5 minutes, and the dish is ready!