Every culture has its own festive New Year traditions, and these are often based on folklore and aim to increase luck or wealth for the coming year ahead. Italy is no different, and we have some wonderful traditions that allow us to let go of the old year and ward off any bad omens or spirits for the year to come.
The first thing you may want to know is how to say “happy new year” to somebody. In Italy, we say “Felice anno nuovo!” or “Buon anno!” to one another!
To let go of the new year, particularly in southern Italy, there is a tradition of getting rid of old possessions to make room for the new year. This involves quite literally throwing old clothes, pots and pans, and sometimes even furniture out of the window! It symbolises letting go of unhappiness from the past to prepare for a happier future.
That particular tradition is not quite as popular these days, but if you’re on the streets of Italy on New Year’s Eve, just be careful there are no flying pots or pans.
Italians traditionally wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck, so don’t forget to don yours if you’re planning on having an Italian New Year’s celebration! This applies to both men and women, and they are thrown away the next day.
But what about food? If you’re wondering what you should cook for an authentic Italian New Year’s Eve celebration, read on for a few great recipes!
Cotechino con lenticchie (sausages and green lentils)
This is a rich and hearty dish that symbolises wealth and abundance, and lentils are used as a symbol of wealth in many cultures as they resemble coins. The sausages used also symbolise abundance due to their high fat content, and they are sliced to resemble coins too.
Italians typically eat cotechino con lenticchie at the stroke of midnight, and it is actually really easy to prepare
Ingredients (this recipe serves 6)
For the Lentils:
1 1/2 large onion (diced)
1 1/2 carrot (diced)
1 1/2 stalk celery (diced)
1 1/2 clove garlic (chopped)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley (chopped)
3 cups lentils
6 cups chicken or beef broth (recommended) or water
For the Cotechino:
1 1/2 Cotechino – about 1 pound
1 1/2 onion, sliced
1 1/2 stalk of celery
4 1/2 bay leaves
Prick the cotechino with a pin (a fork can sometimes make holes that are too big and allow the filling to seep out) and place it in a pot with cold water with the onion, celery and bay leaves and bring to the boil.
Lower to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes. Once the cotechino is cooked, remove it from the water and let it cool.
In a pot, add olive oil and onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook until slightly browned. Add the lentils and stir. Cover with the broth, and then bring to the boil. Lowe to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender.
Remove them from the heat and add the parsley, salt and pepper to taste.
Slice the cotechino and place on top of the lentils to serve!
Mozzarella alla Caprese
This is a classic appetizer from the region of Campnia, and it can be enjoyed all year round. It is a dish that is often associated with Italy by many people, and it is super quick and easy to whip up, so what better dish to include in your New Year’s Eve spread?
Ingredients (to feed 6)
9 slices of Mozzarella
9 slices of ripe tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
Place the mozzarella and tomatoes on a serving dish, alternating them with each other. Chop some fresh basil and sprinkle basil, olive oil, oregano and salt over the top, and then serve at room temperature!
Grains of rice are another thing that represent coins in Italy, and the way that the rice grows in the pot during cooking signifies how people wish for their wealth to grow in the new year, so risotto is often included in a traditional New Year’s dinner. Our version includes champagne in place of the usual wine for that extra it of luxury
Ingredients (serves two as a main dish or 4 as a side)
2 large shallots, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 tbsp butter, divided
1 cup of chopped mushrooms
250 ml Champagne
1 litre of stock (chicken or vegetable)
6 sprigs of fresh thyme, divided
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
In a large heavy bottomed pan, heat the olive oil and add 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the shallot and garlic, and stir until the shallot is translucent (around 3 or 4 minutes).
Add the rice and stir until all of the rice is coated in the oil. Allow it to toast in the pan for around 3 minutes, and stir regularly so that it does not burn.
In another pan, use the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and allow to melt, season with salt, and add mushrooms. Cook them until they reduce down slightly and become lightly browned and set aside until later.
In a jug or a separate pot warm up the stock and half of the champagne together. Add four of the sprigs of thyme and allow them to infuse into the liquid.
Add the remaining champagne to the rice mixture and turn down the heat to medium. Add in the mushrooms and stir until the liquid has been absorbed.
Pour or ladle a little bit of the stock to the rice and stir until the rice has fully absorbed the liquid. Keep repeating until the rice is creamy but still has a bit of a bite to it.
Once your risotto has reached the desired creamy consistency (it may not need all of the stock adding) which should be no more than 25 minutes after you first added the rice, take it off the heat.
Remove the remaining thyme from the sprigs and stir it into the finished risotto along with the parmesan cheese, stirring until the cheese has melted completely.
Season with salt and pepper if desired, and serve in bowls!
We hope this has given you a few ideas for dishes that you can prepare for New Years Eve if you love Italian food or culture!
If you would prefer the Italian experts to do the hard work for you then be sure to book a table to celebrate New Year’s Eve at Bella Cosa