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In many parts of Italy, lentils are served for the New Year's eve dinner. The idea behind this is that the lentils represent small coins (lots of them!) and eating them will bring financial fortune in the New Year. I don't know if this really works, but you can allways try, certainly in what looks to be another troubled financial year. Anyway, they taste delicious in this thick stew. Good quality lentils should not be soaked beforehand. [i]Cotechino[/i] or [i]zampone[/i] are traditionally served with the lentils, but you can also serve them with good quality Italian sausages, or even chicken. Preparation Heat the olive oil in a casserole. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is soft. Add the [i]pancetta[/i] and continue to sauté together until it is lightly golden. Add the herbs and stir in the tomato purée and lentils. Pour in the wine and allow to bubble until almost completely reduced. Add the stock, pepper and salt and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered with a lid, for 50 minutes. Remove the lid for the final 15 minutes of cooking to give the liquid time to reduce. so that you obtain a dark and rich sauce. Discard the bay leaves, the rosemary and thyme stalks before serving. www.cucinone.com