This “Potato, Tomato and Celery Side Dish” was in heavy rotation when I first started making it. Like all good dishes, it was eventually replaced by newer, shinier recipes. But frankly, it deserves fresh attention.
Alas… It came back to my mind now that I am relying on extreme basics with what’s left at supermarkets (and my pantry) now that much of the world is in voluntary or mandatory lock down.
I learned of this side dish from Lidia Bastianich’s TV show, “Lidia’s Italy.” If you’re not familiar with her, she is an Italian American celebrity chef, cookbook author and restaurateur. On her show she rarely provides quantities. In my version of her recipe, I give you precise measurements and I’ve tested it with canned tomatoes as well as fresh ones (fresh are preferred, but these days you may have to rely on what’s in your pantry). Both fresh and canned tomatoes work well but if you use canned, it will be ‘saucier”.
It’s such a simple recipe with three main ingredients and a few supporting ones. When the tomatoes breakdown and become the sauce, that’s when the magic of “it’s greater than the sum of its parts” happens. Admittedly, this side dish will not win any beauty awards – but boy is it good!
Lidia’s Potato, Tomato and Celery Skillet Side Dish
- 3 cups 1/2-inch (1 cm) diced waxy potatoes (e.g., use Yukon or other waxy potatoes that hold their shape). About two large or three medium potatoes
- 2 cups 1/2-inch (1 cm) diced celery stalks. About 4 stalks
- 2 generous cups 1/2-inch (1 cm) diced tomatoes. About 4-5 medium tomatoes (cored, but not seeded)
- Canned tomatoes are fine (1 can, 14.5 or 15 ounces), but try to use a can of whole tomatoes, break them up and include the juices
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (not iodized table salt). NOTE: Don’t be shy about using salt in this recipe. It is needed to bring out the flavor of the vegetables and the potatoes, in particular
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper (optional)
- Wash all vegetables
- Dice potatoes (no need to peel) and celery (save the leaves for my See Sally Make Celery Salad!)
- Bring a large sauté pan to medium-low heat and add olive oil, followed by potatoes celery, salt and red pepper flakes, if using. Stir occasionally. Cook until potatoes and celery are nearly, but not quite cooked through, about 20 minutes. Potatoes may stick and brown on the bottom of the pan. This is ok, it adds extra flavor and the acid from the tomatoes will deglaze your pan nicely
- Increase the heat to medium and add the chopped tomatoes. Cook and stir until the tomatoes lose form and “melt” into the potatoes and celery, becoming a chunky sauce. Cook about 7-10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated