Cotechino is a pork sausage that really demonstrates how every part of the pig can be used to prepare something delicious. Its name derives from ‘cotica‘, namely pork rind. Italian tradition has it that it is the food to be eaten on New Year’s Eve or also on New Year’s Day always paired by lentils. Secondary choice cuts like the ears are ground and stuffed into some pork rind (or even into a pig leg) and flavoured with salt, black pepper and spices like rosemary, even if sometimes they can be also nutmeg and cinnamon to make up a fatty sausage that must be slowly braised – a sort of cooked salame.
Why pair it with lentils?
Because because according to Italian popular belief, eating lentils at the stroke of midnight (or just a little afterwards) is a good omen for the new year since lentils bring money.
Serves: 4 | Preparation time: 15 mins | Cooking time: approx. 2 h 40 mins / 3 hrs
- Cotechino : 1 (about 600 g)
- Brown Lentils, dried: 300 g
- Vegetable broth: 1l
- Carrots: 2
- Celery stalks: 2
- Onions: 1
- Rosemary, fresh: about 1 sprig
- Tomato puree: 1 tbsp
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO): 2 tbsp
Soak lentils in plenty of cold water and leave them to rehydrate for 2 hours, changing the water from time to time.
Cut celery and one of the carrots into thick slices, put them in a large pot along with cotechino. Pour over enough water to cover cotechino, bring it to a gentle simmer. Prick the rind of cotechino with a fork to allow some of the fat to pour out into the broth, then cover the pot with a lid and leave it to cook on medium heat for about 2 hours.
Finely dice the onion, the remaining carrot and the celery stalk , then brown them with a couple of EVOO tbsp in a large pan. Drain lentils, add them to the pan as well along with rosemary and tomato puree. Pour in enough vegetable broth to cover lentils, let them simmer on medium heat for 30 minutes.
Once cotechino is cooked through, use the tip of a knife to make an incision in the skin following the whole lenght of it, then gently peel the rind away. Alternatively, you can slice it first.
Both lentils and cotechino should be served hot, with cotechino slices lying on top of a generous bed of lentils.
Tip: Fresh cotechino takes at least 2 hours of braising in a large pot before it can be eaten. It’s however very easy to find in specialty online shops precooked vacuum-packed cotechino that takes far less effort to prepare and gives you comparatively good results.
Precooked cotechino can be boiled just for about 20 – 30 minutes by directly placing it in a large pot; once ready, cut a corner of the bag and drain the fat. Make sure never to throw away the fat in the kitchen sink, or it will clog the drain when it cools down and solidifies.