Recipe for minestra del sedano (Italian celery soup)
Poor celery. Always a bridesmaid, never the bride. Along with onions and carrots, it's an indispensable aromatic that forms the base of so many soups, stews and sauces, yet we hardly ever give celery its due as a vegetable. This recipe puts celery in the spotlight. The flavor combines the slight licorice of celery with the smoky richness of bacon. Be sure to de-string the celery if you're using mature stalks; nobody wants to get a mouthful of celery string in such a wonderful soup! Simply grab the strings at the root end of each stalk between your thumb and a small paring knife, and pull towards the top. The parmesan cheese rind is the magic ingredient in this humble soup, but if you don't have one in your fridge or freezer, just add more cheese on top at the end.
Minestra del sedano (Italian celery soup)
Adapted from The Joy of Soup, this recipe serves 4.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3-4 bacon slices, diced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 bunches celery, strings removed, cut in 1/2" slices
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock, warmed in the microwave or in a sauce pan
1 rind from a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, any size you have
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat oil over medium heat in large saucepan or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Add onion and bacon; saute until the onion begins to brown.
Stir in tomato paste and celery. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Gradually stir in the stock. Add the cheese rind. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. (Even if you use homemade chicken stock, the bacon adds plenty of salt, so taste before you salt the soup. I used close to a teaspoon of black pepper, because I love it.)
Add the rice, and simmer, covered, 10 minutes or until rice is tender. Pour into a tureen or individual serving bowls, and sprinkle grated cheese over the top.