Yesterday was la festa di San Giuseppe (St.Joseph`s day). Celebrated mostly by southern Italians, but also many different cultures throughout the world.
During the middle ages when there was a major famine due to drought and crop failure in Southern Italy the people looked to Saint Joseph to end their hardship. It was promised that when the drought ended all the bounty would be shared with the poor. As the story goes rain fell and the crops flourished to end the famine, so a large feast was prepared on March 19th in honour of St. Joe! The offerings at the initial festival were mostly vegetarian with some fish, as meat was scarce and expensive for peasants. A major focus of the meal is beans, and in particular the popular fava bean of the south.
In more recent times the zeppola (pic above) is prepared as a traditional St. Joseph’s day confectionery. In Montréal it is usually only available in Italian boulangeries once a year, so it’s kind of a novelty…and it’s delicious. I sampled the baked and ricotta filled variety, which are healthier but delicious. I may attempt to make them in another post, but for now a picture of the one I devoured on Saturday morning is what I offer for your eyes.
*(Update: I still have yet to make them myself, but I do recommend trying them at Alati Caserta in Montreal(pic above), or Di Rienzo's in Ottawa.)
As I mentioned, fava beans (broad beans) are used a lot for this festival so here is my take on a pasta fava.
- 1 can Fava beans
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- Dried oregano
- Fresh basil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- S & P
- Sauté the onions and garlic in butter until translucent.
- Add the dried oregano, paprika, salt and pepper
- Wait until there is some browning on the bottom of the pan, and add some more butter.
- Add the fava beans to the pan, and cook for 5 min on medium heat.
- Take half of the pan mixture and blend it in a food processor with olive oil.
- Add the pureed mix back to the pan, throw some basil, top with parmesan and serve over penne.