Marcella Hazan's Braised Celery with Onion, Pancetta, and Tomatoes

By • April 2, 2013 16 Comments

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Author Notes: You've got a bundle of celery in the back of your crisper drawer. (Go check. You do.) This is what you should do with it. Stick it in a bath with olive oil, tomato, pancetta, and onion, then stand back. Serve it with a juicy roast chicken, lamb, or veal chops. Polenta or farro. A fried egg with very crisp edges. Bread. Or just nothing. Adapted slightly from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Alfred Knopf, 1992)Genius Recipes

Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 pounds celery
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups onions sliced very thin
  • 2/3 cup pancetta, cut into strips
  • 3/4 cup canned plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juice
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cut off the celery's leafy tops, saving the leaves for another use, and detach all the stalks from their base. Use a peeler to pare away most of the strings, and cut the stalks into pieces about 3 inches long (cutting on a diagonal looks nice). Alternately, if you plan on cooking long past tender (an hour or more), you can skip peeling the strings.
  2. Put the oil and onion in a saute pan, and turn on the heat to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it wilts completely and becomes colored a light gold, then add the pancetta strips.
  3. After a few minutes, when the pancetta's fat loses its flat, white uncooked color and becomes translucent, add the tomatoes with their juice, the celery, salt, and pepper, and toss thoroughly to coat well. Adjust heat to cook at a steady simmer, and put a cover on the pan. After 15 minutes check the celery, cooking it until it feels tender when prodded with a fork. The longer you cook them, the softer and sweeter they will become. If while the celery is cooking, the pan juices become insufficient, replenish with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water of juice from the canned tomatoes as needed. If on the contrary, when the celery is done, the pan juices are watery, uncover, raise the heat to high, and boil the juices away rapidly.

More Great Recipes: Vegetables|Side Dishes|Plums|Tomatoes

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Comments (16) Questions (1)

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

How much pancetta, by weight, yields 2/3 cup of strips? I haven't a clue how much to purchase. Thank you. ;o)

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over 1 year ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Yes, Marcella was a bit vague on this point (what size strips? cut how thickly?), but it doesn't much matter. I would just use your best judgement, and if you buy more than you end up wanting to use, I know you'll know good ways to use it up!

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over 1 year ago Ana Luisa Romero Regout

Will try next to a gigot d'agneau ;-)

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over 1 year ago Sarah | strawberryplum

This as been a go-to for me this winter. I've been making with bacon instead of the pancetta to add a bit of smokey flavor to the celery, adding chickpeas or cannellini beans, and serving it over polenta. http://www.strawberryplum...

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over 1 year ago amp156

This is a fabulous recipe that I have added to my go-to veggies for making in advance for parties, and will definitely be on my Christmas dinner table. I peeled my celery (which is quite time consuming) and I still cooked it close to an hour; maybe I'll try not peeling next time and cook it very long. Only change I make is cooking pancetta (or guanciale this time) first, then removing it and cooking the onion in it's fat, and adding the pork back in at the end so it's not soggy.

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almost 2 years ago ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Omigosh, I love braised celery, and this looks fantastic! If you really want to get into Italian vegetables, check out Faith Willinger's book, "Red White and Green, the Italian Way with Vegetables."

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you for the tip re Willinger's book, ChefJune. Sounds interesting! ;o)

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over 2 years ago twinwillow

I made this braised celery dish to bring to a lobster cookout for 19 people. I tripled the recipe and there wasn't any left by the end of meal. My only regret was not adding some crispy bacon to sprinkle on tip for texture. An idea I thought of too late to do. Btw, mine looked exactly as the picture above.

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over 2 years ago magdance

I discovered the pleasures of Italian-style overcooked vegetables in the '70s, short after I learned about the marvel of still-crisp ones. Try Marcella Hazan's carrots too.

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over 2 years ago kimmiebeck

I served this with polenta and grated Parmesan cheese. Absolutely delicious!

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over 2 years ago ustabahippie

What a great idea! I made celery soup out of my languishing celery and it was good, but this sounds so much more exciting.

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over 2 years ago faded-elegance

Even better if you use the celery leaves, which are full of flavor.

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over 2 years ago Andreas Düss

This is rapidly becoming a staple in my house. One thing I'd say, make sure that you give yourself plenty of time. I don't peel and as a result my celery takes at least 90 minutes to soften completely. Instead of pancetta I use cubes of my hot smoked bacon to add some interest.

I then fry up a couple of Italian sausages, or meatballs if I have the time, and add them for the last 10 minutes of the braise; then serve it up mixed with a big bowl of penne. It even got the seal of approval from my three year old, which is no mean feat.

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over 2 years ago shortnsweet

oh WOW that's a good idea! thanks for the inspiration

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over 2 years ago moousse1981

Excellent!!! This recipe has become one of my favourite...
Note: Also in my case, celery took 45 minutes of braising...

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over 2 years ago scott_nickerson

I made this tonight, it took about an hour of braising to achieve the right texture. A bloody marvellous accompaniment to a roast chook and potatoes.