Italian Sausages with Lentils

This traditional Italian New Year dish from Nigella Lawson is guaranteed to win accolades all year round
By Nigella Lawson
Italian Sausages with Lentils
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Effort: easy

Ingredients

Main

  • 4 tbsp olive oil, (not extra-virgin)
  • 1 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 pinches salt
  • 500 g Puy lentils
  • 1 large clove garlic, squished with the side of a knife, and skin removed
  • 8 Italian sausages
  • 100 ml red wine
  • 50 ml water
  • 1 pinches flat leaf parsley, for sprinkling

Tips and Suggestions

My mother used English sausages mostly, and those flat, sludgy lentils (Puy lentils weren't so easily available then) but this is at its best made with highly flavoured Italian sausages (I love the ones tagged 'Genovese', deep with garlic and basil) and either French puy lentils or the similar Italian ones from Umbria.

This isn't about fancifying a downhome dish: it's about doing what feels right and responding to what's available; in short, it's about cooking.

This incidentally, is what Italians serve traditionally on New Year's Day; the coin-shaped lentils symbolise the prosperity that is hoped for over the coming year, much as Jewish tradition uses honey richly for the Rosh Hashanah meal to represent the wish for a sweet and happy life for the year ahead.

Method

1. To cook the lentils, put 2-3 tablespoons of the oil into a good-sized saucepan (and one which has a lid that fits) on the heat and when it's warm add the chopped onion. Sprinkle with salt (which helps prevents it browning) and cook over a low to medium heat till soft (about 5 minutes).


2. Add the lentils, stir well and then cover generously with cold water. Bring to the boil then cover, and let simmer gently for half an hour or so until cooked and most, if not all, the liquid's absorbed. I don't add salt at this stage since the sauce provided by the sausages later (and which will be poured over the lentils) will be pretty salty itself. So, wait and taste. And remember, you can of course cook the lentils in advance.


3. Anyway, when either the lentils are nearly ready or you're about to reheat them, put a heavy based frying pan on the hob, cover with a film of oil and add the bruised garlic.


4. Cook for a few minutes then add and brown the sausages.


5. When the sausages are brown on both sides - which won't take more than five minutes or so - throw in the wine and water and let bubble up. Cover the pan, either with a lid or tin foil and cook for about 15 minutes.


6. Using a fork, mash the now-soft garlic into the sauce and taste for seasoning, adding a little more water if it's too strong.


7. Transfer the lentils to a shallowish bowl or dish (I evacuate the sausages from their cooking pan, plonk the lentils in, then proceed) then cover with the sausages and their garlicky winey gravy. Sprinkle over some flat-leaf parsley.


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