Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Sfinge di San Giuseppe

While the celebration of Easter has to be calculated each year based on the spring equinox and the phases of the moon, St. Joseph’s Day is a fixed late-winter holiday. March 19 is the day Catholics around the world honor the father of Jesus. It is also the day Italians honor all fathers.

The celebration of St. Joseph’s Day is somewhat muted because it always falls in Lent, but most fathers I know prefer less fuss than more, so the tone of the day fits most dads. Of course, it involves food, but it is a meatless holiday.

Every Italian meal includes a pasta course, and many people serve Pasta di San Guise, pasta with breadcrumbs that symbolize sawdust, with the obvious connection to St. Joseph’s profession.

The food most associated with St. Joseph’s Day is Sfinge di San Giuseppe, or St. Joseph’s cream puffs. You can buy them at a traditional Italian grocery, especially if the owner is from Sicily, but you need to buy them early. When I visited Croce’s at noon, there were only a few of the mascarpone-filled cream puffs left.

St. Joseph’s Day also marks the beginning of the spring planting season. My great-grandmother always started her garden on this day, planting peas and onions. She based all her planting on the liturgical calendar rather than the Farmer's Almanac and was always successful. 

To celebrate your father, here is a recipe for Pasta di San Guise:

1 pound of angel hair pasta, cooked according to package directions.

As the water is coming to a boil, prepare the sauce.

2 TBSP olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cups chopped fresh fennel
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 TBSP chopped fresh basil
4 cans of drained, skinless, boneless sardines

Heat oil in large pot, and saute in it the garlic and pepper flakes. Add the fennel, tomatoes, paste, and basil. Cover and let simmer 30 minutes until fennel is tender. Add the sardines and simmer a few more minutes.

1 TBSP olive oil
1 cup fine homemade breadcrumbs

Heat oil, and add crumbs and heat until golden brown. Pour sauce over the pasta, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

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