Nearly every region of Italy has its own version of pasta and beans and pisarei e faso is the specialty of the area around Piacenza, where most of my relatives live. For people who don't know where Piacenza is, it's a city of about 100,000 people that's south of Milan, but north of Florence. I've been eating pisarei e faso for decades on my visits there, but this was the first time I actually made the dish. With the help of my cousin Lucia, I learned how to make it on my recent trip. With the help of my son Michael, who took this two-minute video, you can see how it's done too.
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Here's how you make the pisarei - you need just bread crumbs, flour and water.
Then snip off a small piece the size of a small marble, and roll it on the board, squeezing with your thumb to form a small gnoccho, or gnocchetto.
It's time consuming to make a big bunch, so get a friend or family member involved -- it goes faster and it's more fun.
Make the sauce before you start making the pisarei, so you can be ready to eat as soon as you've boiled the pisarei. Drain the pasta directly into the saucepan.
The final step was a sprinkling of grana padano cheese, from caseificio Santa Vittoria, which we had toured earlier in the day.
Pisarei e Faso
printable recipe here
for the pisarei:
3/4 cup fine bread crumbs
1 1/2 cup flour
1 T. oil
about 1/4 cup boiling water
about 1/4 cup cold water
Add the boiling water to the bread crumbs and mix until it's the consistency of sand. Wait until the mixture has come to room temperature, then add the flour, oil and cold water. Knead it for several minutes until it forms a dough. Then break off a small chunk and roll it with the palms of your hand into a narrow roll. Break off small bits of dough and using your thumb, press each bit down onto a wooden board and roll away from the body, until you get a small gnoccho. It should look somewhat like a little bean.
a small piece of lard or pancetta, cut into bits (about 1/4 cup)
3 T. olive oil
about 2 cups of canned tomatoes
about two cups of cooked borlotti beans, or dried beans that have been soaked
1 stalk of celery, finely minced
1 t. sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup water
a bit of parsley
Saute the lard or pancetta in the olive oil, and add the tomatoes. Let it come to a simmer then add the beans, the celery, sugar salt, water and parsley. My cousin doesn't saute the celery with the olive oil because she says it becomes bitter that way. Add it when you add the tomatoes. Cook for about 20 minutes to a half hour.
When the sauce is ready, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the pisarei in the boiling water until tender then drain directly into the sauce. The sauce should be very loose. Add more water until reaching the right consistency.
Serve with grated grana padano cheese.