La Vera Cucina

Gina’s Gnocchi e Fagioli

For Cleveland sports fans, Alesci’s Downtown is strategically located within walking distance of both the city’s sports arena and its baseball stadium. But whether it is game day or not, owner Gina Alesci keeps her regulars coming back with her home style Sicilian cooking.

While Gina enjoys preparing traditional recipes, she also is not afraid to improvise. For example, when Gina experimented by replacing the traditional pasta in Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans) with potato gnocchi, she created a unique to Alesci’s customer favorite in the process!

Gina’s Gnocchi e Fagioli


  • ¼ pound fresh gnocchi (recipe follows) or hot cooked orecchiette pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 ¾  cups water
  • 1 cup cooked Great Northern or cannellini beans
  • 2 links Italian sausage (1/2 pound), cooked and sliced
  • 1 cup chopped spinach leaves, blanched
  • ¾  cup canned ground peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cook gnocchi until al dente; drain and set aside. In 4 quart saucepan, heat olive oil over medium flame. Add onion and celery; sauté until tender. Add water and beans; bring to a boil. Stir in sausage, spinach, tomatoes, and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Heat through. Add gnocchi, heat through and serve.

Makes about 6 cups, or 2 to 3 hearty servings.



  • 2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt


Scrub potatoes; make a long slit along one side. Bake at 375°F, 60 to 75 minutes, or until tender. Let cool slightly. Peel. Put through food mill into large bowl. Make a well in center of potatoes. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour, the egg yolk, olive oil, and salt. Mix thoroughly with hands. Turn out onto wooden board and knead 4 to 5 minutes or until smooth, adding a little more flour if necessary. Dough should be cohesive, elastic, and smooth. Divide dough into 4 portions. Roll each portion into a rope, about 3/4″ in diameter. Slice into 1″ pieces, and roll each piece over the back of the tines of a dinner fork. Cook in boiling, salted water just until gnocchi rises to surface; drain.