I recently dug through my pantry to find my Umbrian lentils to make my yearly New Year’s Day lentil soup and realized that I had a surplus of lentils that needed to be used as soon as possible. I bring back Umbrian products with every year when we return from Italy, and apparently in the past year or two I have been bringing back more lentils than I have been using! Castelluccio is the small village in Umbria where lentils are grown that sits high up in the Apennine Mountains range of central Italy.
Along with lentils, Castelluccio is famous for its yearly fioritura, or fields of wildflowers that take over the lentil fields along the feet of the Sibillini mountains every year during the early summer months. Unfortunately, this unique village was all but destroyed in the last earthquake that hit Umbria last year, so I am not sure how that will affect the lentil production in the future.
The lentils from this area are small beige lentils similar to the French green lentils from the Puy region of France. These lentils cook up quickly without becoming mushy and are great used in soups, salads, or as a side dish. You can use any small lentils in this recipe, just stay away from the larger red lentils which become mushy when cooked.
Looking over my recipes, I decided to braise some of my lentil bounty along with some sausage and kale to create a complete meal in a pot. This is a hearty dish that combined with a crisp mixed salad of fresh vegetables, and a loaf of crusty Italian bread is a complete meal that anyone would enjoy.
I had some spicy Italian pork sausages in the freezer that I wanted to use up, but you could use a mild Italian pork sausage, or even an Italian flavored turkey sausage if you wanted to make the dish lighter. We thoroughly enjoyed this dish and as we dined we toasted Caselluccio. Hopefully the town will be rebuilt quickly, and will once again become a popular tourist destination.
The Fioritura, amazing fields of wildflowers in the Piano Grande lentil fields.
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Medium Onion, Peeled & Diced
- 3 Garlic Cloves, Peeled & Minced
- 4 Medium Sized Italian Sausage Links, Meat Removed From Casings (See Notes Above)
- 1 Pound Lentils (See Notes Above)
- Vegetable or Chicken Broth
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 1 1/2 Cups Finely Chopped Kale
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large heavy bottomed saucepan.
- Add the onion, and cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add the garlic and sausage meat, and cook until the meat is no longer pink, breaking it up into small pieces with two forks as it cooks, about 6 to 7 minutes.
- Add the lentils and pour in enough broth to just cover.
- Stir in the oregano and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the kale and cook another 5 minutes or until the kale is tender.
- Serve warm with some crusty Italian bread.