This risotto, rich with legumes and savory bits of pork, promises good luck and prosperity whether you’re celebrating New Year’s in Italy or America.
It’s lentils, with their vaguely coin-like shape, that many Italians will be eating on New Year’s Day. Often they’re consumed with a fatty pork sausage called cotechino or the equally over-the-top zampone, a sausage-stuffed pig’s trotter.
I love dishes like that but my supermarket is lacking in cotechino and zampone. Plus, like lots of other Americans, my family insists on eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. Always some variation on Hoppin’ John, the Southern dish made with rice–savory, spicy, nourishing, delicious.
Still, nudging our New Year’s custom a little closer to Italy seemed like a worthy goal. I was happy to learn that in Piemonte, Italy’s premier rice-growing region, lentils are sometimes mixed into risotto as a New Year’s dish.
I set out to put a good-luck dish that hit all the key ingredients. Rice, check. Pork, check. Lentils, check.
Leaving black-eyed peas out didn’t feel right, though. And why should I? Italians were introduced a few centuries back to fagioli dall’ occhio, along with other New World ingredients, and they’re widely available.
My cross-cultural risotto has both lentils and black-eyed peas. You can choose just one or the other, of course, but for stepping into the new year with maximum confidence, I recommend including both.
Be sure to serve this risotto with currency-colored greens–spinach, kale, collard greens, your choice–prized in Italy and America alike as a food that promises good things in 2018.
Believed to bring good luck, these legumes are eaten on New Year's Day.
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup diced celery or fennel
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 3 ounces thick-cut pancetta cut in small cubes
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
- 1 cup cooked lentils, preferably the French/green kind* drained
- 1 cup cooked black-eyed peas* drained
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Ground red pepper or hot sauce optional
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese plus more for the table
Bring broth to a simmer in a small saucepan. Heat butter and olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, pancetta and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just tender and pancetta has given off most fat. Stir in rice. Cook for a couple of minutes until grains are coated and smell toasty.
Add broth to barely cover pan’s contents and stir well. Simmer until most liquid is absorbed. Continue adding broth, stirring, until rice is just tender. Gently stir in lentils and black-eyed peas. Season to taste with salt, pepper and, if using, ground red pepper.
Stir in a final dose of broth (you may not need it all) and grated cheese. Let stand, off heat, for 5 minutes.
Serve in shallow bowls and pass cheese.
* I usually cook dried lentils and dried or fresh black-eyed peas, separately, adding onion, celery and carrot trimmings and bay leaves to the cooking water. Any surplus can be used for other purposes. But you could also use canned or frozen legumes.