Vellutata di Sedano Rapa – Cream of Celery Root Soup

Cream of Celery Root Soup

It’s cold, and Italy’s hearty soups are on tables everywhere now. But Italy’s culinary tradition boasts a wealth of soups that run the gamut from the rustic tradition of cucina povera to the refined alta cucina. This soup is a light, delicately flavored creamy classic, a pitch perfect overture to a sumptuous standing rib roast or a succulent baked ham.

Celery Root

Like leeks, the humble celery root has been known to man for millennia. The ancient Greeks called it selinon, and Hermes came upon it as he approached Calypso’s cave. By the 17th century it was cultivated across Europe. In fact, you’ve probably walked right by this relative of the carrot, parsnip, and parsley a thousand times in the market. Celery root, or celeriac as it is also known, can vary from the size of a baseball up to a softball. Cloaked in a gnarled, hairy brown overcoat, and sporting a top knot of long, deep green leaves, this is the ugly duckling of winter root vegetables. Peel away that warty outer covering though, and you’ll expose ivory flesh with a fragrance reminiscent of celery and parsley. Cook it up into a soup, and taste the essence of celery.

Celery Root

Where Italy’s iconic soups – Istria’s Jota, Farrara’s Sguazabarbuz, and Tuscany’s Ribollita – are thick, chunky, and multi-layered in flavor, this delicately flavored soup is an elegant melding of root vegetables simmered together in brodo di pollo (chicken broth) and puréed into a vellutata, Italy’s version of cream soup. Smooth and luxurious, this genre of soup owes its body and velvety texture to starchy russet potatoes and a final enrichment of cream. If you are looking for an elegant beginning to a winter feast, this is it.

Cream of Celery Root Soup

Vellutata di Sedano Rapa
Cream of Celery Root Soup

serves 4 to 6

When selecting celery root, choose specimens that are firm, unblemished, and heavy for their size with a greenish tint. Spend a bit of time picking up the vegetables and comparing their weight, and you will be rewarded with superior flavor.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 leeks, white part only, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 parsnip, peeled, cut into ¼-inch dice
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled, cut into ¼-inch inch dice
3 medium celery roots, peeled, cut into ¼-inch dice
7-8 cups brodo di pollo – click for recipe
¼ cup heavy cream
fine sea salt
freshly ground white pepper
minced prezzemolo (Italian parsley) or snipped chives, to garnish

Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel the celery root. To prevent discoloration, drop the diced celery root into a bowl of acidulated water (water into which a lemon has been squeezed.)

Melt the butter in a heavy bottom 6-quart saucepan over low heat. Enameled pans such as Le Creuset or Staub are perfect for this. Add the prepared leeks and parsnip, along with a pinch of fine sea salt, tossing to coat the vegetables with butter. Cover the saucepan, and sweat the vegetables over a low flame until the leeks are quite soft and somewhat translucent, stirring frequently. Do not allow the leeks to brown or they will take on a decidedly unpleasant bitter flavor.

Add the diced potatoes, celery root, and 7 cups of brodo di pollo to the saucepan. Stir well. Increase the flame, and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a very gentle simmer. Cover and cook, maintaining a gentle simmer, for about 50-60 minutes, until the vegetables are well softened.

Remove the soup from the heat and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes. Purée the soup with an immersion blender, leaving a bit of texture, if desired.

The soup may also be puréed using a food processor. Fit the workbowl with the metal blade and remove the pusher from the feed tube, setting the pusher aside. Removing the pusher when puréeing a hot liquid will prevent a buildup of steam in the workbowl which could force the top of the food processor off creating both a hazard and a mess. Purée the vegetables in batches, adding about ¼ cup of cooking liquid to each batch to facilitate puréeing.

The soup may be frozen at this point for up to 3 weeks.

Cream of Celery Root Soup

To serve, return the mixture to the saucepan and warm it. Add ¼ cup of heavy cream, and combine well, being careful to keep the soup off the boil to prevent the cream from curdling. Add ½ teaspoon each of fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper. If desired, add the final cup of brodo, ¼ cup at a time to slightly thin the soup. Taste, adding more salt and pepper as needed. Serve in warmed bowls, and top with minced prezzemolo or snipped chives.

Cook’s Note:
About leeks: select long, firm white leeks with the beard at the white end still attached. To clean leeks, slice off the dark green tops and the little beard, and discard. Cut through the leek lengthwise, leaving the very bottom layer intact. Hold the leek under running water, separating the layers to allow the water to run between the layers, making sure all the grit and sand are washed away. Place the cleaned leeks cut side down on kitchen towels to drain.

For another take on Celery Root Soup, visit Chiara Giglio at her site, La Voglia Matta.

Adapted from Carolyn Thacker.

Cream of Celery Root Soup

Note: You can click on any picture to see a slide show!

I have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.

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  1. Comment by Amy @ Fearless Homemaker:

    Oh, this looks lovely! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a celery root up close and personal — learn something new every day. =) It really looks and sounds amazing – what a lovely cool-weather soup.

  2. Comment by Trisha Thomas:

    Hi Adri — I just realized that I have missed a couple of your posts. I guess we are have overflowing email boxes these days. Nice to see this one. Looks like a perfect post-holiday season dish. Warm and healthy. As usual, I love your writing. Your celery root almost comes to life with his “gnarled, hairy brown overcoat and top knot of long, deep green leaves”. He could be a creature in “Lord of the Rings”
    Hope you are well. Trisha

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao MM,

      It is wonderful to hear from you. We’ve been out of touch for too long now. You’re right about the Tolkein character – maybe it’s time for a new sort of vegetable cookbook…

      I hope 2016 is off to a great start for you and your family. Un abbraccio forte!

  3. Comment by Frank:

    This is just perfect for the weather we’re experiencing right now on the Eastern Seaboard!

  4. Comment by Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina:

    What a delicious soup to comfort on these cold winter days and evenings, Adri. This is so light, yet so fulfilling at the same time. I just adore soup, especially this time of year. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Roz,

      I am glad you like this one. It is indeed light and yet quite elegant. It makes a lovely start too a special meal. I hope all is well with you, and I send my best wishes for a terrific 2016!

  5. Comment by Juliana:

    I have never had celery root, and the sound amazing…looks very elegant and I love the creaminess of it. Thanks for the recipe.
    Have a great week 🙂

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Juliana,

      Oh, but it is my pleasure to introduce you to this one. There are many ways to use celery root. In fact, I just made a chunky vegetable soup, and I diced a celery root into 1/4-inch pieces and added it along with all the other root vegetables (carrots and potato.) It was delicious. Also Google Classic Celery Root Remoulade. Perhaps you would enjoy that. Best wishes for a successful and fulfilling new year, and thank you so much for visiting and for taking a moment to comment.

  6. Comment by grace:

    i love when not-so-attractive things morph into something beautiful! that’s most certainly the case here–lovely and delicious soup!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Benvenuta Grace,

      I love it too, and if ever there was an ugly dickling story, celery root surely is it! Let us celebrate this humble vegetable. Thank you for stopping by, and I hope that 2016 will be your best year yet!

  7. Comment by Paula Barbarito Levitt:

    Often overlooked, celery root is versatile and delicious. This is an ideal winter soup and I look forward to trying it soon.

  8. Comment by Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella:

    That looks so warming and creamy Adri! And with only 1/4 cup of cream. How divine! Stay warm 😀

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Lorraine,

      It really is good, and the small amount of cream, combined with the puréed vegetables, lends a remarkably satiny texture. This one is a winner. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Comment by Krista:

    I love celery root so much. 🙂 I’ve been unsuccessful growing it in Australia, but I’m trying again this year. Hopefully this time it will flourish!!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Krista,

      Yes! Another celery root fan. What truly welcome news. I have never tried to grow it, but I would be interested in being kept up to date on your efforts to do so. How about an ongoing post – planting it, and then seeing the celery root at various stages. I’d love to see that- how about it…???

  10. Comment by Tania | My Kitchen Stories:

    Both of these vegetables I love so much. What a delicious soup. So simple so gorgeous

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Tania,

      I’m glad to hear you are a root veggie fan. There are more of you out there than I thought. Reading people’s comments has really opened my eyes to people’s feeling about celery root. I am so pleased that so many people like it. I hope things are going well for you!

  11. Comment by Hannah:

    Three cheers for celery root! It hardly gets any love because it’s not exactly a beauty, but I simply adore the flavor. This soup looks like a bowl of pure comfort, silky smooth and mercifully uncomplicated. I’m going to make it as soon as I can get back out to the store for some of those starring gnarled tubers.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Hannah,

      Celery root love! Excellent! Those poor gnarled little things do not get nearly enough hugs. I so enjoyed your comment, and I hope you enjoy the soup. All the best for a wonderful 2012!

  12. Comment by Karen (Back Road Journal):

    Adri, this is one of my favorite soups. You don’t see it much here but when we have traveled in Europe I’ve seen and ordered it from many menus…now I have a recipe. 🙂

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Karen,

      I am so pleased to hear that you are familiar with this soup. It is a classic, and Christmas dinner in our home, with standing rib of roast beef, would not be the same without it. It’s really something how little used celery root is here in the US, especially compared to Europe, and France in particular. I hope this recipe lives up to your recollections. Happy New Year to you!

  13. Comment by Angie@Angie's Recipes:

    This is a perfectly warming and delicious soup for the ice cold weather we have over here.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Angie,

      I am glad you liked this one, and I hope you try it. What is it about soup and cold weather? The two just go together perfectly. Best wishes for a terrific 2016!

  14. Comment by Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen:

    Hi Adri, Thanks for dropping by my blog. It’s so nice to meet you! This Cream of Celery Root Soup looks so good. I love soup and even in warm weather I’d still eat a bowl. I won’t miss this one.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Peachy,

      It’s a pleasure to meet you, and thank you so much for visiting my site. I am glad this one caught your eye. Celery root is so good, but it really is not well known here. Many people say “I’ve seen it in the market, but never knew what to do with it.” Let’s hope that changes! All the best to you for a terrific 2016!

  15. Comment by Ciaochowlinda:

    Oh how I wish I’d seen this post earlier today when I made a leek and potato soup. My recipe is almost the exact same as your lovely soup, but without the celeriac. I’ll bet it gives such a wonderful flavor. I have used celeriac in salads and as a pureed vegetable, but this is a soup I want to try next, and you know I love your photography- and that china. Now I’m off to see Chiara’s soup.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Linda,

      Well, darn, but I am sorry you missed this earlier. The good news, of course, is that tomorrow is another day! I am sure you will get to this one at some point soon. Whether as part of a larger, multi-stage meal or on its own with a green salad, this one is a keeper. Chiara’s soup sounds great. I am looking forward to trying it. I hope all is well. You must be smack dab in the middle of extreme wedding planning madness. I can not imagine planning two weddings. This is just too exciting.

  16. Comment by Fran @ G'day Souffle':

    Adri, thanks for stopping by my blog G’day Souffle’. I agree with Jamie- there are lots of celeriac in France and I’ve also found them in Australia, but not so much in California. Your soup looks very comforting as a winter dish (and good for spring, summer and fall, too)!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Fran,

      Welcome, and thank you so much for stopping by. It was a pleasure to visit your site. Here in the US, celery root is definitely less used than in France and Europe overall. I bet that a good portion of Americans, especially those under the age of forty would not be able to pick it out of a veggie lineup. We need to change that! Best wishes for a terrific 2016, and I am so pleased to have made your acquaintance.

  17. Comment by sue|theviewfromgreatisland:

    I love trying out new and interesting ingredients, and I have to admit I’ve not used celery root much in my life, so this is a great inspiration, thanks Adri!

  18. Comment by Anthony Fama:

    Adri this soup sounds absolutely delicious and easy to make

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Anthony,

      It is, and it is. I bet you’d love it – especially with a luxurious standing rib of roast beef. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope 2016 is treating you well!

  19. Comment by Jamie:

    celery root, like leeks, is mighty popular in France, a humble but well-used vegetable because of its humility, its cheapness, its hardiness. And my husband loves it. Celery root soup is often on the menu of my favorite restaurant in Chinon but I have never made it. This is a beautiful recipe and one my husband would go crazy for.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Jamie,

      Like leeks and parsnips, celery root is not very popular here. Only recently have I seen celery root in the market on a regular basis, and that is because of Frieda’s Specialty Produce who is now supplying it. Crazy, isn’t it that something so humble has now been relegated to the realm of “specialty produce”??? Thirty years ago it was always in the market. It certainly has a place of honor in French cuisine. Let’s hope Americans get hep to it too. Best wishes to you and yours for a healthy and fully booked 2016!

      • Comment by Oakley @ Frieda's:

        Friedas Celery Root Bringing “specialty” to the market is our, well, specialty! 🙂 After all, Frieda was the one who introduced the US to the kiwifruit back in 1962. Look at how common it is now!

        Thank you for sharing this recipe with us, Adri! We are now going to share it with all of our friends. 🙂

        • Comment by Adri:

          Benvenuto Oakley,

          It was my pleasure to write about celery root. As you can see from the comments, my American readers are not very familiar with it, while my European readers, especially the French – like Jamie – know it quite well. Let’s hope that Americans will make more use of this humble vegetable. I particularly enjoyed working with the celery root from Frieda’s Specialty Produce because the beautiful leaves remained attached. They were fresh, crisp and fragrant. I often add them to soups or use them chopped as a garnish. About the kiwi fruit – I absolutely remember when you folks brought it to market. I think it is safe to say that Frieda changed the American produce scene for the better.

  20. Comment by Pat:

    This soup sounds heavenly, Adri! I love all the flavors. It’s been a colder than usual winter so far in Colorado, and a hot creamy soup like this would be a wonderful meal. I will now not be afraid to but celery root–never knew what to do with it before! Thanks!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Pat,

      It really is good. For such a light soup it is tremendously satisfying. It’s sort of chameleon because it is great as a start to a large meal, but also wonderful on its own with a green salad. I hope you try it. And for a hearty cold weather food, take a look at Chiara Giglio’s celery root soup. There is a link to Chiara’s site at the bottom of my article. I hope you are doing well, and I hope your vision is perfect!

  21. Comment by domenicacooks:

    You know what a fan of soup I am. This looks light and delicate but at the same time totally satisfying. Celeriac is totally underrated. The French love it, and make that wonderful salad with remoulade. If you’re not familiar with it, I recommend you check out my friend Diane Morgan’s book “Roots,” published a couple of years ago. It won a James Beard award. There are many wonderful, creative recipes, savory and sweet, for roots of all kinds.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao amica,

      I’m with you on soups. They are just so darn satisfying. I love celeriac, but it seems that Americans just walk right past it in the markets. What a pity. And thank you for the book recommendation. I am not familiar with it, but you know me and cookbooks. I can never have enough. I’ll have to scoot on over to Amazon. Un abraccio forte!

  22. Comment by John/Kitchen Riffs:

    LOVE this soup. Love celery root in general — just not used enough in the US. Really a shame, because it’s such good stuff. Lovely recipe, excellent pictures — thanks.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi John,

      I agree on all counts. What is it with Americans and root vegetables anyhow?. It always seems that turnips, parsnips, and the like just elicit elicit grimaces all around. It is such a pity because these veggies are great. Best to you, and I hope 2016 is treating you very well.

  23. Comment by Chiara:

    Thank you so much for the link Adri, un abbraccio !

  24. Comment by Laney (Ortensia Blu):

    I was just having a conversation with my mom about roasted celery root that I love. But now I’ll pass your terrific recipe on to her so we have the perfect way to use it for cold winter days! This may just be a new favorite soup around here…Happy New Year!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Laney,

      I just love celery root, and I hope you enjoy this soup. Be sure to take a look at Chiara’s recipe; a link is at the bottom of the article. I bet her soup is perfect for cold winter days. Un abbraccio forte!

  25. Comment by Marisa Franca @ All Our Way:

    I love the lightness of the soup. We love celery root in our house and for some reason I don’t pick any up. Why that is I don’t know but I’ll definitely get some and get creative. This soup is definitely going in my recipe box. I grew up with a mamma who made soups every week. I really miss the warmth and satisfaction of a soup if we don’t have one. In our house we grew up calling chicken — gallina. The only time I used the term pollo was in my high school Spanish class. Thank you for sharing.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Marisa,

      Yes indeed this one is light, and quite subtle. That’s why it is often my choice to serve before a sumptuous cut of meat. I hope you try this. Just last night I made another soup with celery root, a bean and vegetable affair, this time with the veg left in chunks. We gobbled it up! I hope things are going well for you, and that 2016 brings you great joy. Un abbraccio!

  26. Comment by Liz (Good Things):

    I adore celeriac, Adri… your soup looks divine! Happy new year! xx

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Liz,

      Thanks! Well I am so pleased to hear that so many of my readers from outside the US love celeriac. Here it is terribly underused. I hope all is well with you, and thanks for stopping by!

  27. Comment by Pam Green:

    I am a newcomer to celery root and I loved it in the gratin I made recently. I am definitely going to give this hearty soup a try. It’s been so rainy here so this recipe will be perfect to warm us right up!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Pam,

      I bet you will love it. Last night I made another soup with celery root, this time I left it (and all the veg) in chunks, no puréeing. I used cannellini beans, shallots (very thinly sliced), celery root, celery, potatoes, carrots and rosemary, and chicken stock. It was great. I am on a celery root binge!

  28. Comment by Hotly Spiced:

    I love celeriac. This is a great soup and yes, the Italians certainly have a wealth of fantastic soups. I love how creamy this soup is xx

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Hotly,

      It’s good to hear that you enjoy celeriac. It is so very underused here in the US. People just are not familiar with it. This one really is creamy, and it’s sort of a surprise as there is really not all that much cream in it. Thanks for stopping by, and eat celeriac!

  29. Comment by Bam's Kitchen:

    Adri I love how this simple and humble soup becomes so decadent when it is pureed. I love your beautiful photos and I am now craving this soup. How is the construction project coming along? How is your new kitchen?

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Bam,

      Happy New Year to you. I am glad you liked this one, and you are so right about the change that occurs once the soup is pureed. It takes on a real elegance. As for our construction project, thank you so much for asking. It has dragged on for a very long time with delays and difficulties seeming to dog us at every turn. However, we think we’ve got a good grip on everything now. After a period of many months with no progress, we are looking forward to restarting work very soon. I am looking forward to coming to you from my new kitchen!

  30. Comment by Suzanne:

    Beautiful soup, I love simple pureed soups like this. Delicious,

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Suzanne,

      I am with you. These simple purées are elegant and satisfying – perfect for this time of year. I hope all is well with you, and thank you for stopping by.

  31. Comment by Chiara:

    I have published a few days ago a celeriac soup, though I added potatoes, bacon and hazelnuts …. Next time I will make your recipe, good Sunday Adri, un abbraccio !

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Chiara,

      Well, as they say, great minds think alike! I have not seen your article. I will have to come and visit. Yours sounds great, and the hazelnuts are a stroke of genius. This vegetable does not get enough attention. Un bacione a te!

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