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Lentils with Pancetta, Sausage and Herbs



Lentils with Sausage & Herbs


My wine club recently tasted wines from Umbria. For each tasting I practice pairing foods with the wines.   The goal is for the food to enhance the wine and vice-versa. One trick for pairing food with wine you are not familiar with – or even those you know – is to find foods/recipes from the same region as the wine.  This works especially well for old-world wines where foods are often region specific.

Umbria has several regional specialties.  Black truffles are available three seasons of the year and are used in many dishes, elevating them all with their earthy perfume; there is an amazing and distinguished charcuterie heritage, some say the prosciutto di Norcia is the best there is; they use grains and legumes to create hearty dishes; and they are well-known for chocolates. 

One of the dishes I made for the tasting was a lentil dish.  I searched for Umbrian Castelluccio lentils in my local shops but was not successful in finding them.  Apparently Castelluccio lentils are similar to Le Puy French Green lentils, which are commonly available in the U.S. I had tons of Beluga lentils on-hand, however, so chose to use those for my recipe.  One of the traits of  the Castellucccio lentils is they retain their shape even when cooked for a long period.  I reduced cooking times, since Belugas are smaller, cook faster and can get mushy if cooked too long. 

The following recipe is a combination of two recipes that sounded interesting.  It turned out really well and the result was a nice hearty, soul-warming meal.  The lentils were especially complementary with the red wines we had that night: 2007 Lungarotti Rubesco – Torgiano Rosso, 2005 Pievano Montefalco Rosso and 2004 Antonelli Sagrantino di Montefalco.

Lentils with Pancetta, Sausage and Herbs

  • 2 large sweet Italian sausages, about ¾ pound total
  • 1 ½ cups Beluga lentils (or substitute De Puy or Castelluccio lentils)
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • ¼ pound Pancetta, excess fat removed, cubed (or substitute bacon)
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 sage leaves, minced
  • 6 thyme sprigs, leaves only
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups chicken broth, extra if needed
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Rinse the lentils, pick them over, and set aside.

In a saute pan over medium heat, brown the sausage on all sides and then set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery, carrots, Pancetta, chili, garlic, sage, and thyme. Cook 10 minutes over medium heat, covered, or until the onion is soft and golden, stirring occasionally.

Add the lentils and bay leaf, and stir to incorporate. Sauté 2 minutes, stirring gently. Add the broth (it should cover the lentils by about ½ inch; add more if needed), the tomato paste, and salt. Bring to a boil.  Add the Italian sausage to the pot. Cover the pot; stir occasionally and cook over medium-low heat about 30 – 45 minutes, or until the lentils are soft but not falling apart, adding a little more broth if needed. The consistency should be thick, not soupy. Adjust the salt as needed.

Remove the Italian sausage from the pot, cut into slices and then cut each slice in half.  Return to the pot and stir to distribute the sausage evenly throughout the lentils.  Ladle into bowls.

Serve hot, drizzled with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkled with the pepper. Serves 6


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