Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pisarei E Faso

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.

Click on the small triangle at the lower left of the video. A little pop-up box that enables you to share the video keeps sprouting up, but if you click on the small "x" at the top of the pop-up box, it goes away.

Here's how you make the pisarei - you need just bread crumbs, flour and water. 

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

Serves four

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.

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  1. I love the video! Wow, she is fast! Amazing how in vogue "poor people's food" is now - and proof that simplicity (and a lot of rolling of dough) satisfies so beautifully.

  2. What an awesome recipe. Those pasta are amazing and the dish looks mighty scrumptious. *drool*



  3. Loved the video! You are both pros at making pisarei! You are ready for your YouTube debut!

  4. You looked beautiful in the cucina!! How much fun is it to cook with relatives? We are finding more and more that the best foods are the "peasant" foods...soul satisfying. Take good care over the weekend...with the hurricane.

  5. Simply amazing-I just am constantly amazed and inspired by Italian cooks and what they create from the simplest of ingredients. I'm going to give this a try.

  6. It's so great to see the process in the video, and Lucia is fast! The finished looks fantastic too. I'd love to try this.

  7. I love the video and loved listening you speak Italian! Michael,please take more videos of your mom for her blog. Who would think simple breadcrumbs could produce something like that, they look like cavatelli, and Lucia doesn't play around, shes fast!

  8. What a wonderful heirloom recipe! A true "cucina povera" dish and therefore it must taste very delicious as all true dishes like this do. They do look like mini gnocchi and must hold the beans and sauce together so well. I am definitely going to make this for my husband as I know he'll love it.

    Brava on the video! It was fun to see how fast Lucia could press her pisarei and I loved hearing you speak Italian, Linda.

    I hope Hurricane Irene does not do any damage you way!

  9. Mmmm, I hadn't thought of this. My father has given me a big bag of fresh borlotti beans and I can only use so many in soups. But this is good. I love this pasta!

  10. Linda!!!I can't believe I missed the video! I just watched it now! I love watching you both at work and listening to you! And you tell me that it's a traditional dish from Piacenza - my father's home town. No wonder he loves his borlotti beans. I've never had this pasta though! Copying it now and I will prepare it shortly! I'm sure it will take us ages though - your cousin is so fast! Thank you for a great recipe and a glimpse into your life and family!

  11. Hurray I am always looking for a new pasta and beans recipe. Can't wait to try this. Love the video. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  12. Looks and sounds great. I have not seen borlotti beans at my local stores. I will have to look for them.

  13. U love reading about these regional dishes Linda!

  14. Great video! Wow, Lucia is fast. This may be poor people's food but it looks wonderful to me.

  15. I've never heard of this, but it looks really good!

  16. ciao Linda sono felice di averti fatto provare questa ricetta che in questi giorni è stata pubblicata a mio nome sul giornale Libertà.Saluto tutte le tue amiche, buon appetito un bacio Lucia

  17. This dish looks so delicious, Linda, and the best part is preparing it with family. I'm amazed that you could make the dough out of breadcrumbs.

  18. Oops, I'm anonymous. I pushed the wrong button.

  19. Fabulous! I love the addition of bread crumbs to the dough. It must give the pasta a lovely extra layer of flavor. Evviva la cucina povera!

  20. Linda impari molto presto, sei bravissima, bel video!Grazie per mostrare questi piatti italiani! un abbraccio....

  21. Ciao Linda, sono di Piacenza complimenti per questo post sulla cucina piacentina, mi fa piacere che tu faccia conoscere le nostre tradizioni culinarie ...vero che qui si mangia bene? un bacio elena