Traditional to Northern Italy and Emilia-Romagna, Cotecchino with lentils is a crucial part of the Italian New Year’s Eve’s meal. With the lentils symbolizing money and the sausage itself signifying luck, the dish promises prosperity in the new year. For Mario’s recipe, see the Recipe of the Month.

Compared to other sausages, cotecchino is strikingly large, usually at least 3 inches in diameter and 8-9 inches long. Made entirely of fresh pork taken from the cheek, neck and shoulder of the pig, the cotecchino is usually flavored mildly, with only nutmeg, cloves, salt and pepper. Some Italian butchers offer a garlicky version of this holiday favorite, but the best sausages are delicately flavored. The texture, when cooked perfectyl and sliced crosswise, is delicate too, an almost creamy surface of moist pinks and grays.

Cotecchino isn’t only reserved for New Year’s Eve; leftovers are superb as part of Mario’s Bollito Misto