From Italy's Emilia-Romagna, creamy polenta and cranberry beans are cooked together and then pan-fried. This particular version hails from Modena, famous for sports cars and Luciano Pavarotti. This recipe can also be called “casagai” or “cazzagai”. This street food makes a lovely snack or appetizer and is best served with a light red wine. Serve warm as an appetizer or alongside a salad for a light meal.


Recipe Summary

15 mins
25 mins
8 hrs 30 mins
9 hrs 10 mins
8 servings


Original recipe yields 8 servings
The ingredient list now reflects the servings specified
Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Bring 3 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle in polenta, whisking constantly, to avoid lumps from forming. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until polenta is creamy and no longer gritty, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat.

  • While polenta is cooking, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a skillet. Add guanciale and saute until crispy. Add minced onion, garlic clove, and rosemary and cook until garlic is lightly browned and fragrant but not burned, about 1 minute. Remove and discard garlic clove. Stir in cranberry beans and tomatoes and simmer until thickened a bit, about 5 minutes.

  • Fold bean mixture into polenta and mix well. Pour into a 9-inch square glass dish or silicone cake pan and allow to cool, about 30 minutes.

  • Flip cooled polenta over and set out, covered with cheesecloth, to air-dry until most of the moisture has evaporated, 8 hours to overnight.

  • Cut dried polenta into 2x3-inch rectangles.

  • Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons oil. Add a few polenta rectangles to the hot oil and cook until brown and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes, without disturbing the calzagatti. Flip, and cook until brown and crisp on the other side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Continue with the rest of the calzagatti, adding more oil as necessary.

Cook's Notes:

Do not use a metal dish as this may affect flavor.

The idea is to have the least amount of moisture as possible. If you leave it in the refrigerator, it will retain water causing it to splatter and melt when fried, so it's best to leave it on the counter.

Nutrition Facts

218 calories; protein 5g 10% DV; carbohydrates 21.1g 7% DV; fat 12.9g 20% DV; cholesterol 6.5mg 2% DV; sodium 452.7mg 18% DV. Full Nutrition