Finally, a recipe from Italy!
Going to Italy is confirmation of my love for food. Italy equals good food. There just is no other way to say it.
Of course, you can find crappy food there, but it is rare and most often because you did not avoid the tourist areas and the chain restaurants. Skip all that while in Italy and it is almost impossible to have a bad meal.
This year, we found ourselves in Trevi, Umbria, Italy. A small town found on the side of towering hill, with a really steep grade.
I called it my butt-lift work out when we climbed up from the bottom. I had to find some incentive to keep doing that 30-minute steep climb over and over. After all, with it who is crazy enough to continue to it?!!! Nothing with a little body maintenance for incentive. LOL.
Trevi and the Umbria valley have a lot going for them in the way of food. Trevi is home to the unique black celery, Sedano nero.
Yes, celery! It is that green bunch of connected stalks that you buy but leave to die in the bottom of the fridge more times than not. Or use it to stir your Bloody Mary!
And NO, this celery is not black! But it is the darkest green celery I have ever seen.
The flavor is soooo YUMMY and fantastic. I have never had better celery and my hubby who does not eat celery, pigged out on it.
In the US, celery bunched rarely make it to the market with the leaves intact. Not in Italy. You buy the entire head including the leaves. We really miss out because the leaves are great in salads, sautéed or pesto.
As luck would have it, October is the month Trevi celebrates the Sedano harvest. We sampled Parmigiana di Sedano (Celery Parmesan). pesto, beans and celery, raw celery and so much more. I am so in love!
I even talked our Airbnb host, Elena, into sharing her Parmigiana di Sedano recipe with me. I cannot wait to make it so I can share it with you.
We also took a cooking class featuring Sedano Nero made three ways: pesto with the leaves, soup with the smaller parts of the stalks and celery Parmesan with the complete bunch. Not only was it fun but it was free and included plenty of samples of the dishes and all the wine you could drink. My type of cooking class!
Today, I am sharing our favorite celery and bean dish made at our temporary home in Trevi, Celery, Carrot and Fennel Bean Stew.
I like to cook my own dried beans because they tend to have less salt and I can flavor them anyway I choose while they are cooking. For example, I cook them in chicken/veggie stock or in the case of Italy, chicken/veggie bouillon which increases the flavor (no room to make chicken/veggie stock in our LITTLE place). I also add plenty of bay leaves.
If you do not have time to cook your own beans, then use rinsed canned ones. You will still benefit from the beautiful beauty of beans. If you do used canned beans, you will also need to buy some chicken broth or use chicken/veggie bouillon to make the broth.
As far as bean type, I used cannelloni, cranberry and a bean similar to pintos while in Italy. This recipe worked with them all. So use your favorite.
And for celery…well you are going to have to use what you can get. Try to find it grown locally and with the leaves on it, so you can use the leaves in this dish. If you cannot find some with plenty of leaves, you will need to substitute the leaves for spinach or kale. I wish everyone could taste the black celery of Trevi. It really is a treat! One I am going to miss.
You can also make the dish with or without meat and it is fantastic either way. Because October was also the sausage festival in Trevi, we used grilled sausages, guanciale (cured pork cheek) and pancetta, as well as making it vegetarian.
I love easy dishes with so much versatility and flavor!
Celery, Carrot and Fennel Bean Stew
1 cup grilled or cooked sausages, sliced or 2/3 cup pancetta or guanciale, finely chopped (Leave out for vegetarian option)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup carrots, diced
3/4 cup celery, chopped
1 cup celery leaves, chopped (or use spinach or kale)
1/2 cup fresh fennel, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, if desired, to taste
Large sprig of rosemary or use 1/4 cup fresh basil
3 cups cooked beans, cannelloni, pinto, cranberry, kidney, or your choice
*1 quart of broth or bean juices (if made own beans)
If using the pancetta or guanciale, render in pan over medium heat.
Add the olive oil to the pan.
If using sausage, add to the olive oil and brown.
Add the carrots, allowing them to cook in the pan for about 30 seconds before adding the celery, fennel and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. (You want them to remain crunchy for a better texture).
If using red pepper flake, add now, so pepper will release its oils into the pan.
Toss in the celery leaves and sauté until slightly wilted.
Add beans, broth or bean juice and rosemary to the pan.
Cook until heated through.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with crusty bread to sop up the juices with.
*Adjust the amount of broth to your personal preferences. This dish will work as a stew with little liquid or can even become a soup with more. We like a good amount of broth to dip our bread into.
More recipes for cooking with celery: