Types of lentils
Lentils are rich in nutritional properties, so much so that they are considered a valid support for a good diet, thanks to the high concentration of fiber, iron, mineral salts and the low content of saturated fats and cholesterol. Although brown lentils are undoubtedly the best known, there are actually different types of lentils. Let’s find out more about the existing varieties and the different ways to cook them.
The 10 best known lentil varieties
There are at least 10 varieties of lentils best known in Italy, so much so that they are often present on the tables of Italians.
- the green lentil of Altamura, also called “giant lentil”, given its enormous size. Produced in the Murge, it has a dark green color, a compact consistency and is generally served as a side dish;
- the red lentil, or “Egyptian lentil”, due to its Middle Eastern origin. Small in size, it is tender and tasty. It is found in the market mainly peeled (this facilitates cooking). It is perfect for the little ones and for making mashed potatoes. From this variety we make the flour, used for the production of pasta, rich in taste and gluten-free. Excellent organic red lentil macaroni to be seasoned to your liking are available on the Le Celizie e-shop.
- the yellow-red-green Colfiorito lentil is small but very tasty. It cooks in a short time and can be enjoyed alone or in soups;
- Castelluccio di Norcia lentils, which have obtained the IGP certification, have a very fine skin, are soft, small and tasty. They are among the most renowned and versatile varieties;
- Ustica lentils, the tastiest and smallest in Italy. This variety grows on the volcanic soil of the Sicilian island of the same name, which gives it its characteristic dark brown color. It is excellent with wholemeal pasta and rice, and in soups;
- Villalba lentils, also known as “blond lentils”, is the largest Italian variety. It is produced in Caltanissetta and has a good protein and iron content;
- Mormanno lentils, a typical variety from the Calabria region (Mormanno is in fact a plateau of the Pollino massif). It has a small and polychrome seed (green, red and beige) and is mainly consumed in soups and purees;
- Onano lentils, also known as “lentils of the Popes”, is among the oldest varieties. Light brown in color with streaks, it has a sweet and delicate flavor. Due to its creamy consistency it is ideal for soups;
- the lentil of S. Stefano di Sessanio, harvested according to traditional methods on the slopes of the Gran Sasso. Small in size and dark brown in color, it has a very intense flavor and a high iron content. Excellent for rustic soups;
- Armuña lentils, a variety from beyond the Alps brought to our tables for its unmistakable flavor and tender texture.
Lentils: how to best enjoy them based on their color
If you are wondering how to cook lentils, be aware that there is a specific variety and color that are ideal to fully enhance the taste of a particular dish.
- brown lentils are mostly used as an ingredient in soups, pasta or rice. Among the most famous are the lentils of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, considered as a Slow Food presidium, or the lentils of Onano, also ideal to complement stewed meats;
- red lentils (or tending to yellow-orange) are ideal for soups and side dishes or creams;
- green lentils, with a penetrating and intense flavor, are large in size and are used mostly for the preparation of soups. Among the best known are the “Gigante” of Altamura and the Castelluccio di Norcia, which are often served as a side dish with cotechino, or used to make vegetarian meatballs;
- black lentils, very versatile in the kitchen, have sweet and aromatic notes and are small, shiny and dark. They are particularly suitable for preparing delicate soups or salads. Also excellent as a side dish for fish.