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Cotechino e Lenticchie, or What Italians Eat on New Year’s for Good Luck

Photo by Kankana Saxena

This hearty Italian dish from the northern Italian region of Umbria is said to bring good luck because the lentils look like coins when they are done cooking. “It is the traditional food eaten on New Year’s for good luck,” says Italy-based chef and owner of Cooking Vacations Lauren Birmingham Piscitelli. In particular, says Lauren, lentils are considered very lucky, “Dried lentils are often wrapped in little wreath-like decorations and passed out to friends and families ensuring health, happiness and good fortune in the new year.”

Cotechino sausage really belongs to Northern Italy, where it differs slightly from region to region. For example, in the town of Villastrada, they include a small amount of vanilla in the cure. “But in Piacenza, where my mother is from, the typical cotechino sausage is encased in a bladder or intestine, dried and aged for 30 to 40 days before being boiled. It has Barbera wine, peppercorns, and a mix of lean pork and fatty pork rind,” says home cook Christian Galliani. He recalls big family celebrations that focused on this dish during New Year’s Eve. “At least 20 people would come for my grandmother’s cotechino e lenticchie. They would talk of how the dish would lead to good fortune all year!”

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