Italian Regional Recipes Primi Piatti: Pasta, Rice, Soups

Pisarei e fasò – Small Gnocchi with Borlotti Beans

Pisarei are small gnocchi from the city of Piacenza, Emilia Romagna region. Although they may seem similar to usual gnocchi at first glance, they are actually not made with potatoes but with a mixture of flour and old, stale bread.

Best sauce to enjoy Pisarei is the one made with cranberry beans, called Fagioli Borlotti in Italian –  fasò in the dialect of Piacenza. Homemade pasta has a very rough texture that better retains the tomato sauce, so every mouthful of this dish is an explosion of taste.

Serves: 4 | Preparation time: 60 mins | Cooking time: 30-35 mins

  • Borlotti Beans: 450 g
  • Pork Lard: 30 g
  • Tomato sauce: 350 ml
  • Garlic cloves: 1
  • Onions, medium-sized: 1
  • Bay leaves, fresh: 1
  • Breadcrumbs: 6 tbsp
  • A/P flour: 4 tbsp
  • Sugar: ½ tsp
  • Water, lukewarm: as needed
  • Parmesan, grated: to taste
  • Extra Virgin olive oil (EVOO): to taste
  • Salt and pepper: to taste


Tip: if you use dried beans:

leave them to soak in cold water for 12 hours. Use 1 litre of water for every 200 g of Borlotti.Then drain and set them aside for cooking.

Put the flour in a bowl along with the breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt. Mix thoroughly and start to add lukewarm water little by little, whilst stirring to give the mixture a homogeneous texture. Knead the dough until you get a rather firm, elastic loaf; if the dough’s surface is too sticky, add some flour again.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and cut it in smaller pieces. Roll out the dough in long cylinders, chop them in sections about 1 cm long and press on them with your thumb to give them the shape like in the photo below.

Your pisarei are ready to be cooked! Set them aside whilst you work on the sauce.

Chop the onion and the lard in small pieces; brown them in a pan with hot olive oil, along with the garlic and the bay leaf.

Add borlotti beans in the pan and season to taste. Pour in the tomato sauce, followed by a couple tablespoons of water to make it less thick. Remove the bay leaf and add sugar. Let simmer for about 25-30 minutes on low heat.

Boil Pisarei in a big pot of salted water.

Tip: Once you put the pisarei in the boiling water, use a skimmer to remove them from the water as soon as they rise to the surface– it means that they are ready, and it usually takes less than a minute.

Add the cooked Pisarei to the pan with the beans and stir to mix them with the sauce. Serve warm, topped with a generous handful of grated Parmigiano.

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