The Feast of San Giuseppe
Feast Day: March 19
Husband of Mary and patron saint of the family, St. Joseph is one of the most revered Saints in the Catholic world. His feast day on March 19th is just about the biggest feast holiday in Italy. Almost every town celebrates by preparing fritelle, sometimes called zeppole (he is also the patron Saint of pastry cooks), and there are myriad versions of these fried puffs, most of them stuffed with a sweet filling that can be ricotta based or a flavored pastry cream. My next door neighbor, whose family is from Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast, makes one that’s loaded with a velvety lemon custard. As excellent as these pastries are, this is not the only food made for this huge feast day.
Altars are decorated with labor intensive, highly decorated breads (some shaped into crowns of thorns and crucifixes). St. Joseph’s day is celebrated at the spring solstice and the offering of bread, the ritual of mixing pounded grain and water, symbolizes the powers of fertility and the riches of the earth.
Pasta with sardines or calamari, baccala in many incarnations, arancini, prosciutto and salumi, seasonal vegetables, such as artichokes, wild asparagus and fennel, appear in many dishes. Each area of Italy offers up the best of its local produce and creations, in some regions up to one hundred dishes are typical outpourings of food centered devotion. Too much is never enough for the adoration of this most beloved Saint and it’s a welcome break coming in the middle of Lent. In Molise there’s a ritual lunch of a relatively modest thirteen courses, most of which are based on fish and pasta. Pasta with anchovies in various incarnations is one of the traditional dishes always served. Here’s a version of this great dish that I’ve always loved.
Bucatini with Anchovies, Tomatoes, and Walnuts
(Serves five as a first course)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 pound bucatini
3 pints cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 large garlic clove, very thinly sliced
8 salt packed anchovies, filleted, briefly soaked to remove excess salt, and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup walnut halves, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
A few large marjoram sprigs, leaves chopped
A large handful of flat leaf parsley, leaves lightly chopped
A chunk of Pecorino Toscano
Set up a large pot of pasta cooking water and bring it to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt and add the bucatini.
In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium-high flame. When very hot add the tomatoes and the garlic and cook quickly, just until the tomatoes start giving off some juice, about 5 minutes. Add the anchovies, seasoning with a little salt and more liberally with black pepper, and sauté a minute longer. Turn off the heat and add the walnuts and the marjoram.
When al dente, drain the bucatini, saving about ½ cup of the cooking water, and transfer it into a warmed serving bowl. Add the bucatini, the parsley, about a tablespoon of grated pecorino, a drizzle of fresh olive oil, and give it a toss, adding a little of the pasta cooking water if needed to loosen the sauce. Bring the chunk of pecorino to the table. Serve hot.
Painting: ‘San Giuseppe’ by Guido Reni 1635
Saint Joseph’s Day Altar from New Orleans, Louisiana
“Dining With the Saints” is a monthly column by Writer and Chef Erica DeMane. Visit her website at: EricaDeMane.com