Calzagatti (Pan-Fried Polenta and Beans)

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.

Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
25 mins
Additional Time:
8 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
9 hrs 10 mins
8 servings


  • 3 cups water

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup polenta

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

  • 1 ½ ounces guanciale, minced

  • ¼ cup minced white onion

  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped

  • 1 clove garlic, whole

  • 1 cup Romano (cranberry) beans, rinsed and drained

  • ¼ cup canned, diced tomatoes

  • cheesecloth

  • ¼ cup light vegetable oil, divided


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

  5. Cut dried polenta into 2x3-inch rectangles.

  6. 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 (per serving)

218 Calories
13g Fat
21g Carbs
5g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Calories 218
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 13g 17%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 7mg 2%
Sodium 453mg 20%
Total Carbohydrate 21g 8%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 7mg 37%
Calcium 52mg 4%
Iron 3mg 14%
Potassium 112mg 2%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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