This is a recipe that probably is not commonly found elsewhere, but that can be found in many restaurants and home kitchens across Umbria in mid to late October when Trevi is celebrating the Sagra del Sedano Nero (black celery festival). As I’ve explained before, black celery is not actually black, merely unusually dark green with an enhanced celery aroma and flavor. The celery of Trevi, called apium graveolous, is quite famous across Italy and is only grown on the outskirts of this small town. It has become such a specialty item that has now been designated as one of the 15 or so IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) products in Umbria, which essentially means that black celery can only be grown in this small, designated area outside of Trevi. Every year in October, folks come from all over to celebrate this unique vegetable, buying it at the market stalls fresh to take home, as well as tasting many local dishes made with black celery in various local restaurants.
You may think this sounds like an odd recipe when you first read it, but it certainly is delicious. Eggplant Parmesan is so popular, and this recipe simply substitutes blanched celery in place of the eggplant. I tasted this dish at a few different restaurants before replicating this dish myself at home, and I think my version tastes remarkably close to the ones I enjoyed while dining out. This dish is usually served as a first course in place of soup or pasta here in Umbria.
Obviously, black celery will be impossible to find outside of Umbria, but I’ve made this dish with regular celery and it was tasty as well. Just choose a top quality chopped tomato, and fresh herbs as directed in the instructions. I always say, if you open a can of tomatoes up and taste it right from the can and it doesn’t taste delicious, do not use it. Because we are in Umbria and use Pecorino more commonly than Parmesan, I choose to use grated Pecorino cheese which has a more pronounced flavor in place of the Parmesan, but either cheese works well, and feel free to add a little extra grated cheese if you like it cheesy. Do not throw out the leaves from the celery as they have more nutritional value than the stalks, and add lots of flavor to this dish.
Ready For The Oven
Bubbly & Hot Right From The Oven
A Tasty Dish Of Celery Parmigiana
Close Up of Black Celery (Sedano Nero) From Trevi
Market Stalls In Trevi Selling Black Celery
Deborah Mele 2012
- 1 Large Bunch Of Celery (Or Two Medium)
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Small Onion, Peeled & Chopped
- 3 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Minced
- 2 (14 Ounce) Cans Chopped Tomatoes (You May Have Some Sauce Leftover)
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
- Salt & Pepper
- Dried Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
- 1 1/3 Cups Grated Pecorino or Parmesan Cheese
- Trim the celery, cutting away the stem end, and any brown spots and trimming and reserving the leaves.
- Cut the celery stalks in half crossways, and bring a large pot of water to boil.
- Cook the celery until it is fork tender (timing will depend on type and freshness of celery)
- Drain, and set aside.
- In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil and then add the onions and cook over medium heat until translucent, about 6 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook another minute or two until fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, oregano, basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until thickened.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- In an 8 X 8 inch casserole or baking pan, first lace a scoop of the sauce to coat the bottom.
- Lay one layer of celery over the sauce laying side by side, cutting to fit as needed.
- Cover this layer of celery with sauce and half the grated cheese, then place some of the reserved celery leaves on top.
- Place a second layer of celery on top of the sauce and cheese, once again cutting as needed to fit.
- Cover this second layer with more leaves, then sauce, and finally, sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese.
- Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned.
- Let the casserole rest 10 minutes, then cut into slices and serve.