5 Ingredients or Fewer

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

April  2, 2013
6 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
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

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is featured in the story, 14 Cozy, Tomatoey Braises to Warm Your Stove Now Through March, sponsored by Muir Glen. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Becky
  • IngridHeather
  • Jeanean
  • Glenn
  • AntoniaJames
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

23 Reviews

Becky October 29, 2021
WOW! I have no idea how that ingredient list turned into this. seriously magic. I don't even really like celery, but when my CSA gave it to me two weeks in a row, I ended up here. I want to lick my plate. I'm probably going to lick the plate. Just make this recipe.
christocc February 18, 2020
I make this and add a couple of tablespoons of capers that have been soaked in milk for about 10 minutes and then drained and rinsed and about 15 Castelvetrano olives that I've pitted and roughly chopped.
IngridHeather January 28, 2019
I had all the ingredients but not quite the right amounts - still absolutely delicious. Added a container off fresh cherry tomatoes that I otherwise had no use for. Absolutely delicious. Stood over the stove eating it out of the pan for quite some time.
Jeanean January 28, 2018
I would like to braise this in the oven. Is 325 about the right temp?
peanut B. April 25, 2017
Only today I noticed how often I braise this celery. You can use a good amount of anchovies in the absence of pancetta. Add them diced as if it were the pork, then let it start melting before proceeding with step 3.
Glenn August 21, 2016
Would fresh plum tomatoes work as well?
AntoniaJames February 12, 2014
How much pancetta, by weight, yields 2/3 cup of strips? I haven't a clue how much to purchase. Thank you. ;o)
Kristen M. February 12, 2014
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!
Ana L. February 4, 2014
Will try next to a gigot d'agneau ;-)
Sarah F. January 25, 2014
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.com/braised-celery-with-tomatoes-chickpeas-bacon/
Matthew November 8, 2015
The problem is the smokiness gets in the way of the delicate celery flavor, that's why pancetta is preferred.
amp156 December 9, 2013
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.
ChefJune October 1, 2013
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."
AntoniaJames February 12, 2014
Thank you for the tip re Willinger's book, ChefJune. Sounds interesting! ;o)
twinwillow May 19, 2013
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.
magdance April 16, 2013
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.
kimmiebeck April 7, 2013
I served this with polenta and grated Parmesan cheese. Absolutely delicious!
ustabahippie April 7, 2013
What a great idea! I made celery soup out of my languishing celery and it was good, but this sounds so much more exciting.
faded-elegance April 7, 2013
Even better if you use the celery leaves, which are full of flavor.
Andreas D. April 6, 2013
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.
shortnsweet April 19, 2013
oh WOW that's a good idea! thanks for the inspiration
moousse1981 April 4, 2013
Excellent!!! This recipe has become one of my favourite...
Note: Also in my case, celery took 45 minutes of braising...
scott_nickerson April 4, 2013
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.