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

The cooking world suffered a great loss with the passing of Marcella Hazan. To honor Marcella, we are sharing two of her classic recipes that will surely unite your loved ones around the table.

The Menu

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

Marcella Hazan Braise Celery on Food52

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds celery
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cup onions sliced very thin
2/3 cups pancetta, cut into strips
3/4 cups 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.

Save and print the recipe 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.

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.

Tell us: What dish will you remember Marcella by?

This article originally appeared on Food52.com: Dinner Tonight: Marcella Hazan's Braised Celery + Tomato Sauce with Polenta