Lentils types – Italian Cuisine – Italian Cuisine

Green, red, black, brown, shelled: all the variants of this legume, often unjustly confined to New Year's Eve

Too often we see them confined to New Year's Eve. And instead they are a tasty dish to prepare in a thousand ways, also thanks to the large number of variety that distinguish this legume. We are talking about the lentil, the oldest legume known to man, already cultivated seven thousand years ago. A healthy food like few: digestible and fat-free, lentils have about 25% protein, 53% carbohydrates and 2% vegetable oils. They are also rich in phosphorus, iron and B vitamins, and are particularly useful for the proper functioning of the intestine. From a nutritional point of view, 100 grams of lentils is equivalent to 215 grams of meat. To help the assimilation of proteins, it is advisable to eat them together with cereal-based foods: green light, therefore bread, or menus that also include pasta or rice. But what are the varieties of lentils in circulation today? And which are the most suitable recipes? Here, then, is how to orient yourself in the fantastic world of lentils.

The Canadians

I'm the most popular in the world: the Canada it is the main producer. In fact, while the other large producers of this legume – India, China, Iran – allocate a large part of their production to self-consumption, Canada exports almost all of it. Result, in 2012 – according to Coldiretti – almost 30 million kg of lentils were imported into Italy, 19 million from Canada alone, followed by the United States, Turkey and China. While Italian production reaches just 1.5 million kg. Lentils greens Canadians are distinguished by the big dimensions: usually they do not require soaking (useful to make them softer, but it risks compromising many properties) and cooking takes place in about twenty minutes. On the market they are also already pre-cooked in a jar. After cooking they remain compact, which is why they lend themselves well to “dry” side dishes.


Originally from Auvergne, in France, are very small, colored lentils dark green, and particularly valuable. They are ideal for a simple soup, with extra virgin olive oil, celery, garlic and sage as a condiment. But, due to their intense flavor, they also lend themselves well to more complex recipes.

The Egyptians

The red Egyptian are a variety middle Eastern especially suitable for mashed potatoes and creams. Also good with couscous or to combine with cereals in tasty soups. The color is one brownish to red: should not be confused with the red-orange of hulled lentils.


Spanish variety tending to yellow. Both in Spain that in France there are numerous variants of lentils blondes, suitable for both soups and salads.

Like caviar

Black and shiny like the famous type of caviar, the black beluga they are distinguished by their low fat content: particularly delicate and versatile, they perform best in tasty salads and other “dry” recipes. They are grown both in Italy and Canada.


They are lentils of different varieties deprived of the peel. For this reason they are even more digestible, easy to cook and also suitable for feeding children. They can be recognized by their typical color Orange.


Quality production that comes fromUmbria: L'Colfiorito plateau it is located at an altitude of 800 meters, also extending into the Marche region. Colfiorito lentils are almost as small as those of Castelluccio, but from greenish color. They are tender and cook in 20 minutes: they do not require soaking and do not flake with cooking. They are among the most suitable for the classic recipe with zampone and cotechino.

Directly from the Pian Grande

Although the Italian production is very limited, our native varieties are by far the largest quality. The first place, probably, it is up to Castelluccio lentils, grown on the Apennine plateau of the same name in Umbria (the Pian Grande and Pian Piccolo), with the neighboring Marche territories (such as Pian Perduto, which the inhabitants of Visso stole in 1522 from those of Norcia after an epic as well as unusual battle), at 1350 meters above sea level. Very small and from brownish-green color, is an IGP brand: it is characterized by the taste strong and very thin skin. It does not require soaking and cooks quickly. It is perfect for the classic New Year's Eve recipe.


It comes from the volcanic soils of the province of Viterbo: round and colored light brown, it is called the "lentil of the Popes". It is said that Papa Pius IX loved to consume them to console himself after the setback suffered for the loss of temporal power. The typical recipes include originals pairings with fish, from lentil purée with prawns and clams to lentils with baby octopus and polenta. Without forgetting the strozzapreti (irony of history) with lentils, clams and mussels.


Originally fromPlateau of Rascino, in the province of Rieti, is grown between 900 and 1300 meters above sea level. Slow food Presidium, the lentil of Rascino, is from brownish color and small in size.


Color light brown, is grown on the small Lazio island. It cooks in about 60 minutes and gives life to dishes such as the cream of lentils and mussels.

Santo Stefano di Sessanio

Very rare variety grown on the slopes of Gran Sasso, in Abruzzo, at over a thousand meters above sea level: very small, does not require soaking and has a very similar taste to that of Castelluccio. Slow food Presidium, has a purplish-brown color. The small size favors fast cooking and the absence of soaking.

Agricultural Valley

Color dark brown, medium size, this product of the hinterland Caserta it is one of the most suitable for New Year's Eve.

They murmur

Mormanno lentils are a variety Calabrian very small, brownish-green in color, the southernmost among those grown on the Apennine plateaus


Lentils green giants of Altamura they are the progenitors of Canadian greens: until the 1970s they were widely exported to both Canada and the United States. Then, after the collapse of production, they were recently rediscovered. For this type of lentils, however, there is a need for a soaking 3-4 hours. The typical recipe? Soup with oil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and bay leaf. Or with pasta.


Other type of color large green, the largest in Italy with its diameter of 8 mm: Slow food presidium, this Sicilian product requires soaking for about 12 hours and cooking for 30 minutes. With a sweet taste, Villalba lentils are excellent in soups and summer salads.


It is the most valuable black lentil of Italy: this Sicilian cultivar can be used both for tasty soups and original couscous.

The smallest

Another island jewel, Slow food presidium, lentils of Ustica I'm the smallest in Italy. Samantha Cristoforetti even took them into space. The two classic recipes are the soup, enriched with local vegetables and flavored with basil or wild fennel, and pasta and lentils, prepared with broken spaghetti.

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