Celery and Tomato Pasta Sauce

Sugo di Sedano e Pomodoro

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta, making



Appears in

The aroma of celery, a zephyr-like presence, has a background role in many preparations, from vegetable soups to risottos to stuffings to stews, but in this Roman sauce it gets an up-front opportunity to display all its considerable charm. There is a greater concentration of fragrance in the leaves than in the stalks alone, an important consideration when using American celery, whose scent is usually more muted than that of Italian varieties. To achieve the aromatic intensity I was looking for when cooking in America, I used leaves and stalks in equal proportion, whereas in Italy, if I used leaves at all, it would be in a ratio of one part of leaves to four of stalks.

If you’d like to do as the Romans do, serve the sauce over fine homemade fettuccine.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery stalks
  • 1 cup chopped celery leaves
  • 2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
  • Salt
  • Black pepper ground fresh
  • cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Suggested Pasta

Homemade noodles are the best foil for this sauce, either fettuccine or the square ones known as tonnarelli. Boxed dry pasta will also work well if you choose a short tubular shape such as penne or maccheroncini.

  1. Put 2 tablespoons of butter, the olive oil, and the chopped onion in a medium saucepan and turn on the heat to medium. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the onion becomes colored a pale gold.
  2. Add the celery stalks and leaves and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes with their juice, salt, and liberal grindings of pepper, and turn them over two or three times with the other ingredients. Lower the heat to low or medium low, and cook at a gentle simmer for about 15 or 20 minutes until the fat begins to separate from the sauce.
  4. Cook and drain the pasta and toss it immediately and thoroughly with the sauce, swirling into it the remaining tablespoon of butter and the grated Parmesan.