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Italian Sausages With Lentils

by . Featured in NIGELLA BITES
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Introduction

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 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.

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 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.

Italian Sausages With Lentils
Photo by Francesca Yorke

Ingredients

Serves: 4

Metric Cups
  • 3 - 4 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 sprinkling of salt
  • 500 grams puy lentils
  • 1 fat clove garlic (squished with the side of a knife and skin removed)
  • 8 italian sausages
  • 100 millilitres red wine or vermouth
  • 50 millilitres water
  • 1 sprinkling of fresh flatleaf parsley
  • 3 - 4 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 sprinkling of salt
  • 3 cups puy lentils
  • 1 fat clove garlic (squished with the side of a knife and skin removed)
  • 8 italian sausages
  • ½ cup red wine or vermouth
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 sprinkling of fresh italian parsley

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). 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.
  2. 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. Cook for a few minutes then add and brown the sausages. When the sausages are brown on both sides - which won't take more than 5 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. 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.
  3. Remove 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 parsley.
  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). 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.
  2. 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. Cook for a few minutes then add and brown the sausages. When the sausages are brown on both sides - which won't take more than 5 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. 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.
  3. Remove 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 parsley.

Tell us what you think

What 6 Others have said

  • One of my fave recipes! So satisfying and easy to make. I raved about it on my food blog.

    Posted by WhatMarshaEats on 24th November 2016
  • Tried soaking my lentils before cooking, giving them a 24 hour head start prior to cooking my sausages & I was not happy. They turned too mushy. Being European I like an al dente feel to my hero of the dish which accompanies. I do however make a soffrito with chopped celery, onions & one large carrot prior to adding my lentils, I also use chicken stock (reduced salt & good quality) plus I caramelize red onions as a topping which cooks as the dish is being made. It makes an interesting topping & adds to the flavour. Having reduced mobility getting Italian sausages can sometimes prove difficult, so I have used a good quality Cumberland Sausage & on a few occasions I have purchased a Cotechino on line - Cotechino is an amazing Italian sausage type product which requires a slow cook. My Slow cooker takes care of that. All in all Nigella & I am sure we all agree, yours is an amazing recipe & we have all simply tuned it to our taste buds. Just want to say how much I enjoy reading everybody who has commented & added their own pinch of personal tastes. I thank you all for that.

    Posted by BigJune on 6th November 2016
  • I have been cooking sausages with lentils ever since I first came across this recipe in your book (I have them all!) I have found that green lentils are cheaper for making the sausages go further. I linked to this recipe in my blog post about making common dishes go further with pulses (http://oaksgrow.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/pulse-power-part-two.html) I hope that's ok. Thanks so much for the inspiration (in this case and many others!)

    Posted by fromacorns on 7th December 2015
  • This is now one of my fav recipes. However to add some vegetables, I add carrot and celery (and occasionally bacon) to the lentils. I also add red onions and mushrooms to the sausages by gentle cooking them in some butter before adding the sausages.

    Posted by beckv on 24th March 2014
  • Good Evening Nigella, I teach Classic Italian cooking here in Tupelo, Mississippi. We do love lentils here. You must be sure and rinse your lentils first in cold water and let them soak preferably overnight. Any particles from packaging (which normally occurs during packaging), will float to the top. Your lentils will also have time to expand. After they are cooked they will be even more flavorful. I actually make this dish two ways. When I am using sausages, I will cook them right in the pan, first, before adding the prepared and cleaned, lentils. Then add everything to one pot. You can drain the fat first if you like before adding the lentils. Leave some fat in the pan as it will be full of flavor~ my favorite way to cook. The second way is plainly, I always add white wine btw, before adding my broth or water. Buon Appetito! From the Italian in Mississippi!~USA

    Posted by Sunday at the Giacometti's on 11th October 2012
  • I went one further tonight and sauteed the onion and garlic with mushrooms. Removed from the pan before I fried the sausages, added it back with lentils and corn niblets, a splash of tabasco and voila a whole new dish. It was fabulous. I can send a photo!

    Posted by cdprince on 25th April 2011
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