Cotechino (Zampone): what’s all the rave about?

It would be unfair to claim that this Italian delicacy’s popularity is a recent occurrence. Cotechino (Zampone) has been enjoyed by Italians, and other ethnic groups for that matter, for centuries. However, its history is just as intriguing. It all began in Gavello; a town in the Italian region of Veneto, about 37 miles southwest of Venice. In 1511, Gavello was under siege. In order to keep from starving, the townspeople had to find a way to keep the meat preserved and to use the tender meat from their pigs (they couldn’t only use the tough cuts, as they needed every little bit of food they had). Out of this came the creation of Cotechino (Zampone). The townspeople realized they had something special and by the 1700’s, it became the preferred sausage in the area, and possibly most of Italy. In the 1800’s, it began to be mass produced in that region.

Cotechino is a fresh sausage made from pork, fatback, and pork rind. Today, authentic cotechino (zampone) comes from Modena, Italy.

What does cotechino signify to us in modern times?

Throughout the world, the night between December 31 and January 1 signifies the passage from one year to the next and is celebrated zealously. Italians are no exception, as they celebrate with friends and family by eating a big dinner (as with every holiday) on New Year’s Eve. The most famous tradition is to have Cotechino with lentils. According to legend, people consume large quantities of lentils because they are said to bring riches and wealth in the year to come (most likely because the lentils look like small coins).Italian immigrants later brought this tradition to America. Belief in luck and superstition aside, this meal has survived the test of time due to the fact that it is simply delicious.
Once dinner has concluded, it is normal for partying to go deep in to the night and early the next morning. Each region has its own traditions, however some customs can be found throughout Italy. An example of this is setting off fireworks at 12:00 AM as a contemporary adaptation of the old custom of making a lot of noise on the final day of the year to drive away spirits.

It’s recipe time!

How to make Cotechino with lentils.


        1 large onion (diced)

  • 1 carrot (diced)
  • 1 stalk celery (diced)
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped)

2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive oil

  • 2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley (chopped)
  • 2 cups lentils
  • 4 cups chicken or beef broth (recommended) or water
  • Lentil to liquid ratios may vary depending on brand so follow directions on packages
  • To Cook the Cotechino:
  • 1 Onion, sliced
  • 1 Stalk of celery
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • Directions:


  • In a pot start with olive oil, when hot add onion, carrot, celery and garlic until lightly browned.
  • Add lentils and stir. Cover with broth; bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer and cook until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally.
  • Add fresh parsley and remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Lentils should not be to dry or to soupy.


  • Take the Cotechino and poke with fork.
  • Place the Cothechino in a pot with in cold water. Add the onion, clery d bay leaves.
  • Bring to boil, lower to simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Remove the Cothechino and let cool.
  • Slice it 1/2 inch thick and place on top of lentils

Now you may be asking, what about dessert? The answer is, Panettone of course!

A traditional meal should be followed by a traditional dessert. Dig in to the most famous Panettone; Fiasconaro

Now you can sit back and enjoy a part of Italian Tradition with friends and family!

Happy Holidays,




CotechinoDinnerHoliday mealsItalianRecipes

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