Updated: Oct 14, 2019
Auguri to all the Giuseppe's, in particular my dad, Giuseppina's Joseph's and Josephina's!
Most people think of St Patrick's day for its beer drinking binges and parade but I like to think of it as being 2 days closer to St Joseph's Day! St. Joseph’s Day, also known as the Fest Di San Giuseppe, is the feast day for Saint Joseph – which falls on March 19th each year. Since my dad's name is Giuseppe, we would celebrate with a traditional dinner consisting of "Pasta Con le Sarde" , grilled fish for main course (since it falls during lent, there is no meat on the menu) Fava beans, artichokes and the traditional "Sfinci for dessert.
But did you know...
St. Joseph is the Patron Saint of Workers. His reverence in Sicily comes from a time of drought on the Island back in the Middle Ages. The peasants prayed to God through St. Joseph, asking for rain. They promised that if the drought ended, they would fete both the Almighty Father and St. Joseph in an annual feast.
The traditional foods served during St. Joseph’s Day are symbolic of both the legends associated with the saint and the very real struggles of the Sicilian peasantry. The fava bean plays a prominent role in the feast. Fava beans are said to be good luck because they were the only things that survived a drought during the Middle Ages in Italy.Once considered food for animals, the hardy bean was not affected by the droughts and famines of Sicily, making it an invaluable food source to the peasants.
Although I don't enjoy "Pasta Con Sarde", I can confidently say that my dad's "Pasta Con Sarde" is on point. He uses fresh sardines - never from a can - (which take him forever to clean and usually involves my mom yelling at him for stinking up the kitchen) and then finishes off the plate with toasted breadcrumbs. Wild fennel and chickpeas were also some of the few plants available to these poor people and thus became important parts of the Sicilian diet. These are just some of the simple and rustic ingredients that go into the unique Pasta di San Giuseppe.Breadcrumbs are worked into the recipes of the dishes because St. Joseph was a carpenter and the breadcrumbs represent sawdust
And last but not least, to finish off a delicious meal is the traditional St Joseph's Pastry or "Sfinci" which is essentially a fried zeppole piped with rich custard or cannoli cream sprinkled generously with powdered sugar.