Well, it seems like the weather moved from summer right into winter this week here in Umbria. Last week we were picking olives in short sleeved t-shirts and sweating our tails off, and after a wild storm last night the temperature dropped severely, and I am wearing many layers to keep warm. The wind is howling outside which for some reason makes it feel even colder, and I am just waiting for my husband to return from running errands to start a fire in our fireplace for me. With weather like this, I start craving hearty soups, meaty sauces, and stews!
Yesterday was a lovely sunny, warm day when we first headed out to visit a couple of Umbrian hill towns. Every weekend in the fall in Umbria there are many food festivals spread across the region. Both the wine harvest and olive harvest are celebrated, and then there is the beginning of the winter black and white truffle season which of course is celebrated. Yesterday we first headed over to Trevi where they were celebrating the Sedano Nero (Black Celery) and Sausage festival. This is a beautiful little hill town, and this festival is quite popular. The celery is not really black but dark green and very strong in flavor. Only a small area around Trevi is even allowed to grow the celery, so when it is harvested once a year, they throw a big party.They have big wood burning fire pits in the main piazza where they grill sausages served on buns, a bright green celery pesto is spread across bruschetta for sale also, and everything is washed down with a glass of local red wine.
Of course, you cannot visit the celery festival without buying a bunch or two of celery as well! We are leaving Umbria in just three weeks, so I asked for only one bunch, but of course, the price is drastically reduced when you buy three bunches, so I ended up lugging home three huge bunches of Sedano Nero that I need to use in a short period of time. Today I got up and made a big tray of Celery Parmesan which is one of my husband’s favorite ways to enjoy the celery. Because of the severe drop in temperature, I also wanted to make a hearty soup that we can enjoy over the next couple of days to keep warm. Because celery and sausage go hand in hand, I combined the two, but then I added farro, which is Umbria’s most popular grain. I didn’t want to thicken the soup with any other starch, so when the farro was just about completely cooked I used my immersion blender the puree about a third of the soup to thicken it. I made a fresh celery pesto to dollop on top of the soup when I served it along with some slices of crusty bread. The soup turned out just as I had hoped and was a hearty bowl of goodness topped with a vibrant dash of fresh celery.
I do understand that most folks will not have access to black celery, but you can also make this soup with regular celery. Try to find celery with the leaves still attached for the best flavor. To increase the nutritional value and taste, if you add a cup of fresh parsley leaves you will end up with a flavor very similar to my soup!
Deborah Mele 2018
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 4 Sausage Links (About 1 Pound), Casings Removed
- 1 Medium Onion, Chopped
- 4 Cups Chopped Celery With Leaves
- 1 Cup Fresh Parsley Leaves
- 4 Garlic Cloves, Minced
- 5 Cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 1 Cup Farro
- A Dollop of Celery Pesto
- Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
- In a large heavy bottomed stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat until sizzling.
- Add the sausage meat breaking it up with your fingers.
- Continue to cook the sausage until no longer pink, breaking up the meat with two forks as it cooks, about 7 minutes.
- Add the onion and celery, and continue to cook until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the parsley and garlic and cook another minute or two.
- Add the broth, oregano, salt and pepper, and farro, and cook until the farro is just tender to the bite, about 20 minutes.
- Use an immersion hand blender to puree about a third of the soup.
- Serve in individual bowls with garnish of choice and enjoy!