Dinner Tonight: Marcella Hazan's Braised Celery + Tomato Sauce with Polenta

October 22, 2013

The cooking world suffered a great loss with the passing of Marcella Hazan. We reflected on all of the cooking wisdom Marcella handed down over the years -- especially her tomato sauce. To honor Marcella, Food52er MrsWheelBarrow is throwing a virtual dinner party this Saturday, October 26th. She invites you to participate by cooking for those you love and sharing the memories with the hashtag, #DinnerWithMarcella. We are celebrating with two of Marcella's classic recipes that will surely unite your loved ones around the table. 

Braised Celery on Food52 Marcella's Tomato Sauce on Food52

Click through on the recipe photos or titles to see (and save and print) the full recipes, but we've also written you a handy grocery list and game plan below.

Shop the Story


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

Marcella Hazan Braise Celery on Food52 


Marcella's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter with Carlo Middione's Polenta Facile

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce on Food52

The Grocery List

2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes or 2 cups canned imported Italian tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
3/4 cups canned plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juice
3 onions
2 pounds celery
2/3 cups pancetta, cut into strips
2 cups polenta
Parmigiano-reggiano, for serving

You probably have butter, salt, pepper, and oil in your pantry. If not, be sure to pick those up, too. 

The Plan

1. First, get the polenta cooking. Using the top half of a double boiler or small pot (which you will set inside a larger pot), bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Measure out the polenta and slowly pour it into water, stirring vigorously in one direction for 5 minutes. Once the polenta begins to thicken, fit the pot into the double boiler and cook for 1 1/2 hours. For step-by-step instructions and genius tips see Middione's recipe.

2. Put either the prepared fresh tomatoes or the canned tomatoes in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very low simmer for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and mash tomatoes with a spoon. Don't forget to check on and give your polenta a stir! 

4. While the sauce and polenta continue to cook, onward with the celery. Cut peeled celery stalks into 3 inch-long pieces (cutting on a diagonal looks nice). 

5. 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.

6. When the pancetta's fat becomes translucent, add the tomatoes with their juice, the celery, salt, and pepper, and toss thoroughly to coat well. 

7. Adjust heat to cook at a steady simmer, and put a cover on the pan for 15 minutes.

8. This meal is meant to be served family style, so get out your trivets, gather around the table, and crack open a bottle of wine. Serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.

To the delight dinner guests, prepare Marcella's Belgium Apple Pudding Cake for dessert.

Tell us: What dish will you remember Marcella by?


Listen Now

Join The Sandwich Universe co-hosts (and longtime BFFs) Molly Baz and Declan Bond as they dive deep into beloved, iconic sandwiches.

Listen Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Esvee
  • dymnyno
Lactose intolerant cheese lover, who will walk blocks for a good cup of coffee. Recently escaped the corporate world, after discovering her favorite part of the job was ordering catering.


Esvee February 12, 2021
Wow, this is frustrating! I missed the part where this is not actually a recipe, by any stretch of the imagination. Unfortunately this was one of the times that I neglected to read it all the way through before starting and then found myself with three chopped onions and two pounds of peeled celery sliced on the diagonal and no idea what to do next.
dymnyno October 23, 2013
On his facebook page Victor Hazan says that on November 3 he and a group of Marcella's friends are "organizing a Tribute to Marcella on November 3rd."