Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Mama’s Lentils with Pasta" for “Buon Anno!” or “Happy New Year!”

As the clock strikes twelve midnight, on December 31st, people all over the world will wish each other a “Happy New Year.” For many people, this symbolizes the beginning of a better year than the previous one. Many people celebrate, by going to parties, drinking champagne, eating, dancing, fireworks, and especially by being with their loved ones.

Begin an Italian-American, the chance to celebrate New Years Eve with family, friends and the kids were welcomed at my parents’ home. I remember when I was very young my mother would tell us to take a nap in the daytime so we would be able to stay up till midnight. As I tried to nap, I could hear all the hustle and bustle in the kitchen preparing the food for that nights festivities. I could hear the clicking of the wine and champagne bottles that were to be on the table that night. As I drifted off to sleep for my nap, I could smell the aroma of fried vegetables cooking and the sweet smell of onions with sausage and peppers being prepared for our party. The smell of food cooking was a delightful aroma that meant love and family to me. As the guests began to enter our decorated house from Christmas, you could see all the dishes of goodies that were being placed on the tables. As the party continued, it was almost that time, when the New Year was approaching. Everyone put on their hats, crowns, had noise makers and we would count down the time, 10, 9, 8, all the way to Happy New Years. This to me was my favorite part of New Years Eve. My mom would give us kids, spoons and the covers to her pots, and we were allowed to go out in the street, and bang on them, and we would yell, Happy New Year. As kids, this was the best part of the evening and will be remembered for a life time.

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Italy is called Capuano (the “head of the year”) or Notte di San Silvestro (the night of St. Silvestro). St. Sylvester I, was the 33rd Pope. In Italy there are rituals or traditions that are really not followed anymore in today’s world. Some of these rituals include throwing old possessions out the window, in the hopes of forgetting past misfortunes and clearing the way for good luck in the New Year. Firing up the Yule Log on the last day of the year, is an invitation to the Virgin Mary, who can warm the baby Jesus and then the ashes would protect the house from damage. The dinner menu consists of pork sausage and a lentil stew. The lenticchie (lentils) represent coins, being round in shape and is eaten at midnight, one spoonful per bell. This is supposed to bring good fortune. The eating of pork is said to represent the fat, or riches, of the land. Pomegranates are also eaten as symbols of prosperity and faithfulness. Fireworks and lots of noise also “scare” away the bad spirits. (Now I know why my mom would let us bang pots on New Years Eve)

 So, as I close this post, I want to wish everyone across the world who reads my blog a very “Happy New Year”. I also have a recipe to share, which is called “Mama’s Lentils with Pasta”. I hope that you enjoy this hearty recipe, and make it your tradition for New Years as well.
Mama’s Lentils with Pasta
3 tablespoons of olive oil (just enough to coat frying pan)
8 ounces of dry brown Lentils (1/2 package)
4-5 carrots (chunks)
2 celery stalks (cleaned and in chunks)
2 onions (sliced)
2 cloves of garlic (cut up)
4-5 cups of water or beef stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:  (Cooking time 1 1/4 hours)
Clean thoroughly through the lentils, so no stones or pebbles can be found. Then rinse the lentils in cold water. Put 4 cups of water or beef stock in pot and boil. After water boils, now add the lentils and lower heat to a simmer about 1/2 hour. While the lentils are cooking, put oil in large frying pan and heat up. Now add the sliced onions and celery cut up in chunks. Cover frying pan and sauté 5-6 minutes or until all ingredients are soft. Now add the cut up garlic at the end so the garlic will not burn. Once these ingredients are cooked till soft add them to the lentils in pot. If lentils are looking dry add another cup of water or stock. Meanwhile, clean and cut up carrots in chunks and add to the lentils in pot. Let simmer for about 3/4 hour so carrots can cook. Add salt and pepper to taste. While the lentils are simmering cook your favorite pasta to add to your lentils. My family uses, elbow pasta, Ditalini pasta or even broken up spaghetti. (Which is what my great-grandmother would use, my family also likes it very thick) Servings: 4 Enjoy!!!!

Till Next Time………….

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