Italian Lentil Soup New Year’s Tradition
On New Year’s Eve in Italy, one cannot forget to eat a hearty bowl of Italian Lentil Soup at midnight!
Once you taste this outrageously, out-of-this-world and insanely delicious soup, you’ll understand why Lentil Soup is so special to Italians and savored at the end and beginning of each year! Words can’t describe this flavor. If you follow the steps precisely, you’ll soon be enjoying it too!
All cultures, including Italians, have rituals for welcoming the beginning of a new year, mostly focused on good health and prosperity.
New Year’s Eve is a very special celebration for families in Italy. As in all Italian meals, food is the focal point on “La Festa di San Silvestro” or “Sera di Capo di Anno”. Gathering at a large table for a
According to tradition, most Italians celebrate by eating one very important food: lentils
. . . and they seem to do a great job of eating them in large quantities. Lentils are the star and center stage of the table!
I don’t know why, but Italians are a bit of a superstitious bunch, and one of those superstitions is that they must
It’s hard enough at my age to even stay up that late anymore. I’d fall asleep after the clock chimed 3 times!
After the big dinner ends, Italians party all night long! Fireworks are set off at midnight as a modern version of the old tradition to make tons of noise on the last day of the year to scare off spirits. I’m sure that our neighbors are glad that we don’t follow that custom!
Another Italian tradition on New Year’s is to wear red underwear to bring good luck in love! Now that custom is mighty interesting!
So “why lentils” you might be asking?
First of all, those little legumes are called “
It is said that the more lentils that you eat, the richer you will become, and the better your wealth, fortune, and happiness will be the following year.
I think that I just might be pigging out on lentils now! I need all of the help that I can get!
Lentils are served in different ways all over Italy. In Northern Italy, lucky lentils are served on New Year’s Day paired with big, plump, fatty pork sausages native to the region, called “cotechino” sausages. OK, so why pork too?
Well, pork is thought to be lucky for abundance, prosperity and wealth because it’s so fatty and rich. Pork loin or any cut of pork can be used and is easier to find than cotechino from Modena, Italy and just as lucky!
Italians also enjoy drinking plenty of Prosecco or Spumante (“sparkling wine”) alongside their bowl of Italian Lentil Soup on New Year’s Eve and/or Day! Drizzling some good olive oil on top of the lentils is also said to bring good health! So many superstitions, huh?
One of the most prized
In the hills of Umbria, the Bartolini family has been growing legumes since the
Umbrian lentils are actually quite tiny. If you’re not familiar with the Castelluccio lentils, I highly recommend that you try them. They cook fairly quickly, keep their shape and serve as an excellent base for any lentil dish.
Since these lentils are so
Lentils can be served as a thick stew and served with something meaty, like sausages. Sausages, especially in Emilia-Romagna and further north, known as “cotechino” (a soft sausage-like salami) are preferably served in northern Italy. Or lentils can be soupier and eaten with a spoon (my family’s preference). And lentil soup is really versatile. Like so many
One of the most iconic New Year’s lentil-based dishes comes from the region of Emilia-Romagna. An original specialty most notably from the town of Modena where my family lives, cotechino is a large sausage made from
It’s sold cooked or raw, then simmered over low heat and sliced into rounds. You can buy precooked, vacuum-packed cotechino. Pork sausages work just as well.
But I’m going to be very honest with you in hopes that I don’t insult an Italian. I really, REALLY dislike this sausage. I guess that I’m just not used to something that literally drips of fat. I thought American sausage was fatty, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the fat in these bad boys. But who knows, you may like it. Just warning you my American friends!
If you use cotechino, slice it thickly and simply lay on top of the lentils. Remove the skin and fry just like you would do with American sausage.
Enough jibber-jabber on my part! Are you ready to get cooking? Here are your step-by-step photo instructions for Italian Lentil Soup!
Rinse, rinse, rinse those lentils with cold water . . . twice. Use a
Set the Instant Pot on “SAUTE”; drizzle in the olive oil and heat it up a bit, but do not scorch it.
Saute the diced pancetta in the hot olive oil
Then dice the carrots, celery,
And now you have the “
Add the soffrito (onions, carrots, and celery) to the Instant Pot, along with the tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, chicken broth, and bouillon cube …. and bring to a boil.
Add the lentils, spinach or escarole, parsley, and
Never throw away the rinds of hard Italian cheese, especially those of Parmigiano cheese. Save them by either freezing them or keeping them in your refrigerator’s cheese drawer. These add the most unbelievable flavor to soups and sauces! If you are vegetarian and cheese is not included in your diet, then simply eliminate this part of the process, but know that the final result of soup will not have the same taste of the recipes that I share and prepare here on LBVC.
Set the timer for 10 minutes (keeping in mind that the Instant Pot will also take another 10 minutes to heat up, for a total of 20 minutes).
Secure the lid on, sit back and relax with a nice glass of vino, and play some lovely music.
Then prep a salad, slice some fresh crusty artisan bread, set the table and you’ll have a delicious meal in less than 20 minutes!
When the time is up and cooking is complete, allow the Instant Pot to release all of the steam. When ready to open the pot, carefully open the lid ‘away’ from you to avoid any extra dangerous steam.
Ladle the Italian Lentil Soup into large bowls. Serve with grated Parmigiano cheese and minced Italian parsley sprinkled on top. Pass around some crusty Italian bread, olive oil,
Enjoy a nice bowl of this Italian Lentil Soup “Salsicce e Lenticchie”, along with a nice glass or two of Prosecco.
Angela shared a photo of her beautiful and delicious Italian Lentil Soup that she made for New Year’s Eve 2020. She even added the sausage that’s so traditional too!
“The soup came out amazing! I served it last night after midnight for luck and everyone enjoyed it. And we had the rest of it today. Thank you so much for the recipe! Happy New Year!”—Angela
My pleasure Angela! Sharing wonderful recipes with you brings me joy and also gives joy to everyone who loves delicious food!
Here are two of the most popular soups on the blog:
Wishing you a new year of 2023 filled with health, happiness, prosperity, and all beautiful things.
Please share the love and pin this image, thank you!
Food Trivia: Lentils are some of the world’s oldest domesticated plants. Italians developed a variety of ways to prepare these little legumes several millennia ago when first found on the peninsula. These cherished legumes were essential to the huge population of peasants who needed food during hard times. As part of the legume family, legumes are very nutritious containing nearly 30% protein and are an excellent source of fiber.Print
Italian Lentil Soup
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
This is a very traditional soup that Italians enjoy for ringing in the new year! It’s absolutely delicious too! But hey, we all need a little bit more good health and good fortune too!
- 2 cups lentils, rinsed twice in a colander under cold water
- 6 cups chicken broth (3 tall containers, not the cans)
- 1 vegetable bouillion cube
- 2 – 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for sautéing the soffrito
- 8 oz. pancetta, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks with leaves attached, diced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, stems removed, washed, and minced
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/4 cup freshly minced basil
- 1 12–oz. can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), crushed with your hands (or buy it already diced/chopped)
- 1 small 6-oz. can tomato paste
- 2 cups fresh spinach leaves or escarole, rinsed well and chopped
- (optional) pinch of hot red pepper flakes (peperoncini)
- 2 rinds of parmigiano reggiano cheese
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 short sprig fresh rosemary
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- salt and pepper
- Serve with: freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, pass around to guests
- Rinse the lentils in cold water in a colander. Umbrian lentils are so tiny that a paper towel or thin towel is necessary to prevent them from falling through the holes of the colander.
- Drizzle olive oil into the Instant Pot and set it to ‘SAUTE’. The Instant Pot will take about 5 minutes to pre-heat.
- When the olive oil is hot, add the chopped pancetta and saute’ for 2 minutes.
- Add the soffrito of onions, carrots, and celery. Stir.
- Cook, stirring often, until the onions, carrots, and celery are semi-soft, for about 2 minutes.
- Turn off Saute. Stir in the garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken broth, and bouillon cube.
- Set the Instant Pot to ‘SOUP’ and bring everything to a boil.
- Add the lentils, parsley, spinach/escarole, seasonings, and cheese rinds.
- Place the lid on and make sure that the release valve is in the “sealing” position.
- Press the ‘MANUAL’ button and set the time for 10 minutes. The Instant Pot will pre-heat for 10 minutes and then begin to cook.
- After 10 minutes, quick-release by flipping the release value to “VENTING” (a little bit at a time).
- Once venting is complete, remove the lid and stir gently.
- Taste and add additional salt and pepper to taste preferences if desired.
- Buon Appetito!
- For all of your meat-lovin’ family and friends, it’s nice to offer 1 pound of sweet Italian sausage links, (or spicy hot sausage if you prefer) cut into slices (to serve alongside the soup on New Year’s Eve.
wow this looks absolutely wonderful, esp. at this time of the year…so warming and delicious!
I love soup and especially meatless soups. This one is perfect for this time of year, just like you said.
I love lentils but don’t think I’ve ever cooked them with a parmesan rind before! Love the idea and can’t wait to try a delicious bowl of Italian Lentil Soup!
Thank you Susan! We both have comforting soup on our minds! I just visited your blog with the bean and kale soup post, left a comment and didn’t see it published. So here it is and please know that I tried! (twice):
“What a great post to start off the new year Susan! My mother used to make a mean Ham and Bean soup that was way to unhealthy for us. Yours with the addition of kale sounds a lot more of what I would love (as well as my chubby body)! Like you, I’m into reading the seed catalogs but haven’t ordered anything yet . . . need to get on that soon. And lastly, I can’t knit a stitch, but need to get back into quilting. Lastly, I just love the letter to Nana and Papa from your grandson. Precious!!!! Happy New Year and thanks for stopping by again; my newsletter apparently hasn’t been sent since May and I’ve missed my friends!”
Hi Roz..This recipe looks amazing and I would like to try it tomorrow. I bought all your listed ingredients except I bought regular lentils. However, when I read your instructions there is no mention of adding the 8oz of Pancetta . When do I add that? When sauteing?
In step #3 on the recipe card, you add the pancetta to the olive oil to saute it. I hope that you enjoy this recipe. I made a batch just last night so we can enjoy it for New Year’s Day. Please take a photo and send it to me and I’ll be happy to share it with everyone here!
Happy New Year (Buon Anno)!
Hi Roz ,
The soup came out amazing! I served it last night after midnight for luck and everyone enjoyed it. And we had the rest of it today. Thank you so much for the recipe! Happy New Year!
Wow, you’re the second person who made this lentil soup yesterday and today. Both of you loved it and I couldn’t be happier!
Seriously, I have had some major loser recipes that I’ve developed and tested in the kitchen and would never, ever think of sharing them. I mean, groceries can get pretty expensive, so it’s a terrible thing to throw good hard-earned money (literally) down the drain. So if a recipe isn’t good enough for my family and me, it’s not going to be good enough for you and your family.
I am grateful for your friendship and happy to continue to share my recipes with you anytime!
Blessings to you and yours for the new year and let’s think positive for some wonderful good luck from the lentil soup!
Be well my friend,
The soup’s flavor is absolutely amazing!!! Only adjustment I made was 4 cups of lentils instead of 2
I’d add the additional lentils too, but I’ve got this super picky husband who truly enjoyed this recipe, but asked “next time, keep everthing the same except add sausage please”.
Everyone is so different aren’t they? I agree with YOU though . . . use more lentils!
Can you take a photo and allow me to share your results on the blog (last name not used for anonymity). I’d just love to let others know about your success!
Happy New Year, Kathleen!
Such a beautiful and flavorful looking soup.I am quite a fan of soup made with lentils and this sounds perfect for the cold weather and the new year. Best Wishes!
Thank you Judee! Wishes for a happy and healthy 2021 for you and your loved ones!
Thank you for reposting this because I missed it last year. Very interesting post. I love learning about the food traditions of other cultures and am actually surprised to find the connection between Italian New Year and lentils, in fact, just lentils in general. You even have grow your own specialty lentils. So cool! I’ve never seen that brand, but no problem. There isn’t anything that can’t be found online today. 🙂 The one ingredient that really takes this dish over the top for me is the pancetta. YUM!!!! This is one I need to give a try. I hope you are having a restful and relaxing holiday season with your family and getting a well-deserved breather. Sending you lots of hugs for the New Year. XOXO, MJ
Yes, I agree, MJ that it is really interesting to read and learn new traditions of different cultures and even traditions among families. Plus it’s cool reading about how recipes are different among cooks and bloggers!
Lentils are indeed a popular way to bring in the New Year and Roz, yours look terrific. Wishing you and your family a healthy and happy New Year.
Life just got busy and I’m late in wishing you a wonderful new year as well!
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Can I make this in a dutch oven on the stove top?
Yes, you can prepare this soup on the stovetop; just give the soup more time to blend together . . ; taking a taste as time goes by. An hour low to medium-low burner should work. Place a flat pizza pan or cookie baking sheet under the pot between the burner to act as a barrier between the hot stovetop and soup pot…..it helps prevent burning. You also need to check on your soup so it doesn’t burn and give it a good stir periodically. The longer you let the soup simmers on the stove, the more the soup blends together well. Too much time on the stove though makes a more thick soup.
Let me know if you have any more questions. If you take a photo, I’ll share it here (anonymously of course)
Thanks for asking Lori!
Great recipe. Delicious soup, thanks.
Do you have nutritional values for this soup?
I am posting the nutritional value of this lentil soup for you. You can also visit:
for more in-depth nutritional information.
Thank you for your great question and I’m delighted that you love the recipe! Healthy and good!
I agree my friend!
These lentils are brown, correct? I have red, green, & brown lentils,so I have it covered. I have a chunk of parn.,reggiano,& I don’t want to ruin that expensive cheese by removing the rind(not sure if would, but I don’t want to risk). Can you buy rind at the grocery store? Thank you for any help. I am very anxious to prepare this soup,bc I love lentils, whatever color they are!
If I could, I’d send you some of the rinds that I save and freeze (we go through LOTS of parmigiana and pecorino). I have never seen it for sale, but that would sure be a great product to sell. I imagine that it isn’t for sale is that everyone wants to keep them for their own cooking, knowing that it’s not available in stores. I’ve never had any of my cheeses ruined without the rind because I wrap it back up very good and like I said we go through these cheeses faster than time could ruin anything. So I’ll stand behind my belief that sticking the rind in while cooking is just a touch that takes the soup over the top. My mother taught this to me and she was an excellent cook. But you’re right, you don’t want to waste expensive cheese (or anything). I don’t think it really matters what color the lentils are. Please let me know how your soup tastes, you’ll know if you need to add salt or not. My family is very cautious of too much salt because of high blood pressure issues among several of the family. So taste and go with your level of preference for salt. Please also take a picture of it and send it to me to share here. Nothing fancy. Nothing like professional expertise level. Just have fun, snap a shot and send it to me. I’d be honored to share with everyone! Talk with you soon!
I’ve purchased just Parmesan rind at my local Kroger in Lexington Ky at the cheese counter.
I simply asked if they’d sell it to me and they did. It may be worth asking you cheese counter at your local stores and see if they’ll sell it to you.
I’m planning on making this soup tonight or tomorrow for NYE. I can’t wait to try it!
I can’t wait to hear about your soup’s results! Please let me know. Did you make any changes that you like? Thanks fora also sharing with everyone about the local Kroger’s willingness to buy some Parmesan rind. Great tip that I’m sure going to use from now on!
Delicious Delicious Delicious… best lentile soup I’ve ever made. Even the kids loved it and asking for seconds..Thank you for sharing.
Wow, Malou! If the kids loved it, what else could a cook ask for? What a compliment and thank you for sharing it!
Rob – we are going to be in Umbria in a week and I’m going to buy some lentils! I will make this yummy sounding soup for first course when we return. I’m having a dinner party and will be serving porchetta.
Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment about your trip to Umbria. Oh they have the best quality legumes! And when you return to the States, please take a photo and send it to me so I can share it with everyone here in the community of readers. I’ve been to Umbria once for 2 days. I went to Assisi and absolutely fell in love with the town/village. I hope to not only return to Assisi, but to visit more areas of Umbria. I think Umbria is under-rated, but I love it! I hope to hear about your experiences when you return!Ciao,Roz
I made this last year and was awesome. Started a new tradition. I just don’t recall seeing “ 1x 2x. And 3x” what are the servings for each?
I’m so happy that you made this delicious soup and enjoyed it so much. The 1x 2x and 3x means if you want to make a normal batch it’s (1x) and if you want to double the recipe, you click on 2x and the measurements change automatically for you, and finally, if you want to triple the recipe, you click on 3x and the measurements will once again change automatically for you. I’m sorry to have caused any confusion. Each recipe ‘software’ is different in little ways.
If you make this soup again, please snap a picture and I’ll share it here with everyone (using only first name for anonymity).
Happy New Year!! I appreciate you very much, Belkys!
Glad you reminded me of this tradition I just bought lentils and need all the luck / for 2023 hope you have a blessed New Year!
I didn’t know about this Italian tradition. It seems alike a most delicious way to bring int he new year. Love it! 🙂 ~Valentina
So true dear Rose! Felice Anno Nuovo…
I won’t let NYE go by without my cotechino e lenticchie… Happy New Year to you and yours, Roz!
What a great post, and so informative! I love lentils but usually buy the French variety. I never knew there were Umbrian lentils! I make my lentil soup in a similar way, but don’t usually add tomatoes. Great idea, and the resulting look of the soup is beautiful.
I love soup and this lentil soup looks hearty and delicious.