Trevi Black Celery Pesto
We recently visited the small town of Trevi during their black celery and sausage festival and as well as munching on roasted chestnuts and sausage sandwiches we bought three large bunches of Trevi black celery. Now I have tasted black celery before but have never seen it in it’s natural state so I was surprised to see it was not so different from the every day regular celery you see except it’s leaves were much darker, similar to the dark green of parsley. (See the leaves in photo above) The celery in 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. This basically means black celery can only be grown in this small designated area.
Although we weren’t able to stay and taste some of the dishes served at this sagra, we did buy a few items made with black celery such as a jar of pesto, a bag of pasta, and a pasta sauce. Once I got my three large bunches of celery home, I decided I needed to quickly find a few ways to use it up and my first idea was to make my own black celery pesto. The pesto we bought in the jar was very finely pureed but I like my pesto to have some texture. My pesto contains celery and celery leaves that I first sauteed until tender, fresh garlic, grated grana padano cheese, toasted walnuts, salt, pepper, and of course olive oil. Now I realize most folks will not be able to find black celery, so I would suggest using regular celery as well as parsley instead to duplicate the same flavor. This pesto is delicious spread onto toasted bruschetta, used as a pasta sauce, or you can also simply spoon a large dollop of it onto a hearty vegetable soup. Although I left my pesto a little coarse, if you prefer a smoother texture simply puree it longer. I will give the amounts of each ingredient I used, but I suggest you taste as you go and adjust the ingredients to please your own personal tastes.
Makes About 1 1/2 to 2 Cups
by Deborah Mele
4 – 5 Stalks Celery Chopped
4 Cups Chopped Celery Leaves, Parsley, Or A Combination of Both
1/2 Cup Toasted Walnuts
2 – 3 Garlic Cloves, Peeled
Salt & Pepper
1/2 to 3/4 Cup Grated Grana Padano Cheese
Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Place about 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy frying pan and cook the celery and celery leaves until soft and tender. Place the celery, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup of cheese, pepper flakes, chopped walnuts, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor and pulse. Begin to drizzle the olive oil into the container and continue to blend the mixture until you have reached the desired consistency, adjusting the taste by adding the remaining garlic clove, cheese, or additional salt and pepper as needed.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator with a light cover of olive oil for up to 5 days, or freeze in individual airtight containers for up to two months.