Celebrate St. Joseph with Simple Pasta and Almond Cookies

Crisp-Almond-Cookies-from-ChocolateChocolateandmore-89a.jpeg

During these very trying times, life still goes on. And today Matt Swaim and I chatted about the Feast of St Joseph and why it’s significant, especially during these times when many of us are quarantined at home.

(BTW the Sonrise Morning Show and Sacred Heart Radio is holding their pledge drive.)

In Italy, the feast of St. Joseph is in March and is usually celebrated with a huge feast of food set upon a special altar. That’s not happening today, but smaller ones being held in homes is. So why celebrate St. Joseph in this way? Here’s the reason:

There’s a legend surrounding this feast day. There was a famine in Sicily hundreds of years ago. The people prayed to St. Joseph to help, and he ended the famine, and, in thanksgiving, they held a special feast with a special altar honoring him.  Today they still celebrate, and the table is overflowing with an abundance of food. 

Then in the villages, different people portray the holy family and the 12 apostles, as well as some angels so its quite a celebration. The table design is unusual. There are steps leading up to the table that represent the ascent from earth to heaven. On the top step you’ll see a statue of St. Joseph or a picture of the Holy Family. Palms, lilies and white carnations are added to give an aroma suggesting the fragrance of heaven and the sweetness of salvation.

The table is covered with white linens and vigil lights are placed upon it.

The lights are green, brown and deep yellow, and they represent St. Joseph’s clothes.

What foods are included?

The foods that are eaten represent the harvest. Breads are baked in special shapes like a staff, a hand, the cross and animals. They represent both St. Joseph and the life of Christ. No meat or cheese is served, but a lot of fish, including sardines, are. Lots of thick soups, like lentils soup with escarole are served along with veggies like celery and fennel. 

Fava beans, or “lucky beans” are particularly associated with St. Joseph because they sustained the Sicilians throughout famine. You can substitute peas for the favas in a recipe, like I’m doing with the pasta with Parmesan, peas and black pepper today. 

Almonds are included in many of the desserts served.

It’s appropriate, too, since St. Joseph is also the patron saint of pastry cooks. So I’m sharing a nice recipe that the kids can help with for almond cookies. 

And an effort is made to feed everyone after the priest blesses the feast.

The day ends with each participant taking home a bag that might be filled with bread, fruit, pastries, cookies, a medal of St. Joseph, a Holy Card and/or a blessed fava bean. Keep your “lucky bean,” and let it remind you to pray to St. Joseph.

ST. JOSEPH’S PASTA WITH PEAS, PEPPERS AND CHEESE

No real recipe here. Similar to pasta with black pepper and cheese that we had in Italy. And a real simple one with pantry ingredients and peas (frozen or canned or none if that’s the case). 

Ingredients

Frozen peas (a cup or more), thawed slightly

1⁄2 pound spaghetti, cooked with 1/2 cup cooking water reserved

4 tablespoons butter 

Coarsely ground black pepper and salt to taste

Parmesan cheese – as much you like 

Extra virgin olive oil, for serving 

Instructions

Cook pasta in salted water, but about 2 minutes before it’s done, toss in the peas. They’ll cook nicely.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. 

Add pepper and cook for a tiny bit. Add 1/4 cup of the cooking water and the remaining butter to pan. Stir until butter is melted and sauce begins to thicken.

Add cooked pasta, peas and Parmesan and toss until cheese melts.   

Toss very well to coat, adding more pasta water if pan seems dry. Season with salt to taste. To serve, sprinkle each portion with more cheese if you like and a drizzle of oil.

Crisp Almond Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter, softened 

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs 

2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour 

1 teaspoon baking power 

1/8 teaspoon salt 

1 cup finely chopped almonds 

Instructions 

Cream together butter and sugars, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in eggs and vanilla and beat again.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to dough, one third at a time until all added. Stir in almonds.
Using a small cookie scoop, place dough on a parchment lined baking sheet three inches apart (these cookies spread.) Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 8-9 minutes. Until edges turn golden. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.

Recipe and photo source ChocolateChocolateandmore.com 

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