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Lentils for Health & (maybe) Wealth in the New Year

Our Editor-in-Chief recommends lentils as a New Year's meal not so much for the lore of riches but for health and flavor.

Lentils with sausage.

Lentils with sausage.

An Italian custom is to eat lentils around New Year's. The traditional idea is that lentils, with their coin-like shape, will bring wealth that year to those who consume them on New Year's Day or Eve. To increase the looming prosperity, Italians often serve coin-shaped slices of Cotechino sausage on top of the lentils.

I eat lentils on New Year's Day, despite the fact that the financial windfall has never arrived in the subsequent year. I eat lentils year-round because I know they deliver tremendous health benefits and flavor at very little cost.

As for the health, lentils are a plant-based protein, high in fiber and vitamins with antioxidant and anti-cancer effects. That works.

Lentils are a staple in my cupboard. I go to them regularly in a variety of ways (soups, salads, stews, sides), but my favorite preparation is the one on New Year's Day topped with sausage (recipe below). It's basically a soup without the broth, and I love the texture and combination of flavors. The sausage could easily be left out or swapped for a different meat or fish (I love lentils with salmon).

An added bonus to eating lentils regularly is that they are cheap! A one-pound bag of dried brown or green lentils (the most common) costs about two bucks and is good for roughly four portions. Hey! maybe that's where the prosperity promised on New Year's comes from...

Lentils with Sausage

Lentils with Sausage

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Recipe by Andrew Cotto


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 1 pound 1 dry green or brown lentils

  • 1 pound 1 sweet sausage

  • 1 cup 1 diced carrot

  • 1 cup 1 diced onion

  • 1 cup 1 diced celery

  • 2 cups 2 chicken broth or water

  • 2 cups 2 tomato paste

  • 1 tbsp 1 red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tbsp 1 dried fennel pollen or oregano

  • salt & pepper


  • In a heat resistant bowl or pot, add the dry lentils and cover in boiling water for 20 minutes then drain and set aside.
  • Coat the bottom of a frying pan or Dutch oven with a little olive oil and brown the sausage in their casings.
  • Once evenly browned, remove sausages to a plate and cover in foil to allow them to cook through.
  • Wipe out the pan and add the rest of the olive oil.
  • When the oil shimmers over medium heat, add the carrot, onion, celery, and (if using) red pepper flakes.
  • Season with salt & pepper and sauté until soft (roughly 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  • Raise the heat to medium-high and add the tomato paste and fennel pollen or oregano.
  • Stir the paste with the vegetables until the paste darkens but does not burn.
  • Add the lentils and coat evenly.
  • Add the stock or water (it should just cover the lentils; if not, add more), bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes (until the lentils are tender) and the liquid is nearly entirely reduced).
  • Slice the sausages into 1/2-inch coins.
  • Plate the lentils and top with sausage.
  • Serve immediately with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil.

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