Lockdown larder!

Rationing, limited availability and a world crisis. I never thought in my lifetime I would witness such fear and sadness on mass. My children are confused, and I have no answers but can comfort them with love and food. So, with that in mind, lets remain positive and safe. It is imperative to stand strong and be thankfully for what we have and look after ourselves our friends and families, be it even at a distance.

I like many am on a 3-month lockdown due to a long-term illness and am incredibly thankful for my well stocked Italian larder. I am I suppose a little bit or a hoarder, but I announce this will a smile on my face. I always have masses of tins stored in methodical rows and even have a designated tomato cupboard. I love tinned food!!

Tinned tomatoes, beans, pulses, lentils, custard, fish and so much more. The beauty of opening a perfect tin of plump beans and making a bean and pasta soup in less time than it would take ordering online is a blessing. Last week I worked alongside Filippo Berio olive oil and launched an Instagram live video and made the bread pasta and bean sauce recipe below. Change and amend the ingredients as required by using what you have available in your own larder or cupboard. Substitute and enjoy. Stay safe!


There is an old wives’ tale attached to this pasta shape. Due to the shape, the thumb is used to apply pressure to the dough forming a dent, hence possibly leaving a tough outer skin on the thumb if they were made often enough. If a well-used thumb was seen on a young lady then is was said she would make a perfect wife and mother. Pisarei (pasta dumplings) are still made by grandmothers, mothers and daughters and are from the province of Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna. The art of making pasta is still very much loved in Italy, especially within the family home, and I like the idea of the fairy tale too, which adds a sense of romance.

Preparation time 1 hour
Cooking time 30 minutes
Serves 4

400g ‘00’ flour
150g stale white breadcrumbs
350ml–380ml warm water

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped
30g lard
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Small bunch of parsley, chopped
600g passata
100ml water
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 x 400g tin borlotti beans, drained
Salt and pepper to season
10 basil leaves, torn
70g Parmesan, grated

1 Into a bowl, tumble in the flour and breadcrumbs and stir.
2 Make a well in the centre and slowly add the water.
3 Form the mixture into a ball of dough using your hands.
4 Knead for 4 minutes on a lightly floured surface until elastic and smooth. Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
5 Once rested, cut the dough into four portions. Roll each quarter out into thin sausages. Using a knife, cut each into small pieces of dough. The pasta should not be too thick and should be the size of a swollen borlotti bean. Use your thumb to push each small piece and make a concave dent.
6 Continue making the pasta in this way. Place each dumpling onto a clean tea towel to dry a little whilst you make the sauce.
7 Into a shallow saucepan, add the olive oil and onion. Fry off the shallot for 2 minutes over a low heat until softened.
8 Add the lard, garlic and parsley. Stir well.
9 Pour in the passata along with the water, tomato purée and drained borlotti beans. Stir and season with salt and pepper. Cook slowly for 30 minutes.
10 Cook the pisarei in salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving a small ladle of the starchy pasta water.
11 Add the pasta and reserved water to the sauce and stir gently. Add the basil leaves.
12 Serve in bowls with some grated Parmesan.

If you prefer, you can soak beans the day before and cook them for much longer. I cheat by using canned as they take a lot of the initial preparation out of cooking. Borlotti beans can be replaced with cannellini beans, butter beans or chickpeas.