According to Italian lore, for good luck, eat lentils for the New Year. In the southern US it’s black eyed peas.
What is it about legumes that bring good luck? My guess? Perhaps after the holidays and making it through the whole year, we need strength. Lentils deliver protein in spades and that’s what we need for strength.
I woke up thinking about this after my Italian language teacher, Federico, told me about the tradition the previous week. I knew I had lentils, but what else was in the refrigerator and pantry? Lentils, fennel bulb and onion. That’s all I could work with since grocery stores are closed on New Year Day. Super simple, but so very satisfying.
Lentils are the only “must haves” in this recipe. Feel free to swap out the vegetables and use carrots, celery, or other root vegetables.
Happy New Year and best wishes! (Buon anno, auguri!)
New Year’s Lentil Soup
- 2 cups dried lentils, any color
- 1 large fennel bulb
- 1 small white or yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 bay leaves, fresh or dry
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for a finishing drizzle
- 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 6 cups liquid (water, vegetable or chicken broth, or a combination)
- Finely slice onion and fennel into long stands. Finely mince garlic cloves
- Heat a heavy bottom stock pot to medium heat and add olive oil
- Add fennel and onion and stir occasionally until softened and translucent, about 7-9 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute
- Add the liquid and dried lentils to the stock pot. The liquid should cover the lentils and vegetables by about an inch and a half (4 cm).
- Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer until the lentils are tender, but not breaking apart. Mine took 40 minutes but start testing at the 30 minute mark. The cooking time for lentils will depend on how old they are
- Adjust seasoning for taste. Drizzle each serving with high quality olive oil