Gnocchetti Collescipolani Recipe from Umbria.
This breadcrumb gnocchi with sausage and beans is a seriously good, hearty traditional dish from Umbria. The gnocchi are unusual as they are made with just breadcrumbs, flour and water. However, they are easy to make and go so well with the rich and flavourful sauce. Definitely, a recipe to add to your autumn/winter menu!
Known as gnocchetti collescipolani or gnocchi alla collescipolana, this Umbrian breadcrumb gnocchi recipe actually comes from the small hilltop village of Collescipoli, just outside the city of Terni in South-Eastern Umbria. Both Collescipoli and Terni are very ancient settlements dating back to pre-Roman times and located on a large plain at the confluence of the Serra and Nera rivers.
The cuisine in this part of Italy is very rustic and based on what Italians call ‘la cucina povera’ (the peasant kitchen). Pulses and legumes are staples for the locals and the most popular meat is pork and pork products, game birds, poultry and lamb. They also have a lot of traditional dishes with black truffles, particularly those from Norcia further up the Nera River.
The breadcrumb gnocchi.
For most people, the word gnocchi usually brings to mind potato gnocchi. However, there are many types of gnocchi here in Italy. Italians make gnocchi using bread, potatoes, ricotta, semolina and other ingredients. Check out my collection of 8 different types of Italian gnocchi to learn more or my post about the history and origins of gnocchi.
Umbria isn’t the only part of Italy where they make breadcrumb gnocchi. In Piacenza, Emilia-Romagna, they make a dish called ‘pisarei e fasò’ which has very similar breadcrumb gnocchi served in a bean and lardo (cured pork back fat not lard) or pancetta sauce. Actually, the sauce is almost the same as this recipe. Pisarei aren’t exactly like these Umbrian breadcrumb gnocchi because they are slightly different in shape. They look more like orecchiette. On my to make list!
How to make breadcrumb gnocchi from Umbria.
As I mentioned above making these breadcrumb gnocchi is pretty easy. In fact, it’s a lot less work than potato gnocchi as there’s nothing to cook beforehand. Just mix breadcrumbs, flour, salt and warm water together in a bowl until you have a dough. Then turn it out onto a pastry board and knead a little. Not a lot as otherwise your gnocchi will be too dense.
After letting the dough rest, you then make the gnocchi by rolling pieces of dough into ‘snakes’ about 1.5 cm (0.5ins) thick and then cutting the snakes into small 1-2 cm (0.5-0.75 ins) pieces. In Umbria, they generally refer to these gnocchi as gnocchetti, meaning small gnocchi. In fact, they are smaller than most other types of gnocchi.
How to make the sauce for gnocchetti collescipolani.
The sauce for this traditional Umbrian recipe takes about 45 minutes to make. You can start on it while the dough is resting or make it beforehand. This is quite a filling and hearty sauce. It has borlotti beans (cranberry beans), Italian pork sausages (salsiccia), guanciale (cured pork cheek), onion, celery, carrots, garlic and tomato passata!
Most of these ingredients are easy to find outside of Italy, except perhaps the guanciale. You can replace this with pancetta or fatty bacon. You can also use fresh peeled and chopped tomatoes instead of passata or both together, which is what I often like to do! The beans need to be cooked first if you are using dried beans. Of course, canned beans work well too.
Like with other Italian meat pasta sauces, you begin this bean and sausage sauce by sautéing the chopped veggies. Then add the guanciale and sausage. Once the sausage has browned, add the tomato passata and simmer for about 20 minutes. Finally put in the beans and continue cooking for 10 minutes more.
Variations of Umbrian breadcrumb gnocchi with sausage and beans.
I first came across this recipe in one of my favourite cookbooks, La Cucina: The Reginal Cooking of Italy. This book was published in English by the Italian Academy of Cuisine (L’Accademia Italiana della Cucina). It’s a treasure trove of traditional Italian recipes, not just pasta of course.
Like many other Italian recipes, there are different versions of gnocchetti collescipolani. However, the differences are quite small. The recipe I have calls for tomato purée which in the UK would mean paste or concentrate. But, I actually think they are referring to tomato passata or US tomato purée because of the quantity required.
I’ve come across a few recipes for the sauce made with pancetta instead of guanciale. However, most Italian recipes have guanciale. There are also Italian versions with cannellini beans instead of borlotti, with red wine and with peperoncino. Traditionalists and the people of Collescipoli would probably disagree with using those ingredients!
Like the inhabitants of Amatrice where pasta all’amatriciana comes from, Collescipoli residents are very proud of their signature dish and have a sagra (feast) every year in summer to celebrate it!
Let me know what you think.
If you try this Umbrian breadcrumb gnocchi recipe, do please let me know what you think by commenting here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page. Your feedback is much appreciated!
Other recipes from Umbria worth making!
- Pasta alla Norcina (with sausage, truffles and cream)
- Umbrian lentil soup with pasta
- Umbrian wild pea soup with pasta
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Umbrian Breadcrumb Gnocchi with Sausage and Beans (gnocchetti collescipolani)
For the breadcrumb gnocchi
- 180 g Italian '00' soft wheat flour (6oz) or all purpose flour
- 120 g breadcrumbs (4oz) homemade or store bought
- 1 tsp salt
- 120 ml warm water (1/2 cup)
For sausage and bean sauce
- 200 g borlotti beans (7oz) precooked or canned
- 100 g guanciale (3.5oz) or pancetta. Cut into cubes.
- 200 g tomato passata (3.5oz) or peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes
- 2 Italian pork sausages Casing removed and meat crumbled
- 1/2 onion peeled and finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery finely chopped
- 2 carrots finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove peeled and finely chopped
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
- salt for gnocchi and to taste
Make the breadcrumb gnocchi
- Mix the breadcrumbs, flour and a tsp of salt together in a bowl. Slowly add the warm water while using your hands to work the ingredients into a dough. You may not need all the water or you may need to add a bit more. The dough has to be soft and slightly tacky but not wet.
- Turn the dough out onto a pastry board and knead a little. Not a lot as otherwise your gnocchi will be too dense. Cover the dough with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and let it rest for 30-60 minutes.
- After letting the dough rest, make the gnocchi by rolling pieces of dough into 'snakes' about 1.5 cm (0.5ins) thick and then cutting the snakes into small 1-2 cm (0.5-0.75 ins) pieces. Put the ready gnocchi onto a tray or tea towel that’s been dusted with flour while you make the rest and the sauce. I find semolina flour is the best for dusting
Make the sausage and bean sauce.
- Remove the casing from the sausages and crumble the meat into small pieces. Cut the guanciale/ pancetta into small cubes or strips. Peel the onion and wash the carrots and celery. Finely chop all 3. Peel and finely chop the garlic.
- Sauté the onion, garlic, celery and carrots over a low heat in extra virgin olive oil. Then add the guanciale and the crumbled sausages. Turn the meat so it browns. After about 10 minutes, add the tomato passata and continue cooking for another15 minutes. Add salt to taste and then add the boiled/canned beans and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Finish and serve.
- Just before you are ready to serve, cook the breadcrumb gnocchi in plenty of boiling salted water. Remove them using a slotted spoon as they come to the surface and add them to the sauce. (taste test before removing the gnocchi from the water). Mix everything together well and serve with grated pecorino.
If you are interested in learning how to make homemade pasta and different types of gnocchi, check out my shop page for some great video online courses from my friends in Rome! Nothing beats learning to make pasta from Italians! Plus while you’re there why not order a copy of one of my pasta recipe cookbooks or checkout some recommended pasta making tools?