Pasta A Ceci, Meatless “Meatballs” and Cannoli

Feast of St Joseph
Each Thursday, you know I chat with Matt Swaim on the Sonrise Morning Show. Today we talked about St. Joseph and his feast day.

In Italy, the feast of St. Joseph is in March and is celebrated with a huge feast of food set upon a special altar. 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. 
In villages, different people portray the holy family and the 12 apostles, as well as angels. 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
And an effort is made to feed everyone after the priest blesses the feast.

An anonymous loyal listener shared 2 recipes: one for pasta with chickpeas and a meatless “meatball”. Here’s what she had to say:

“This pasta was one of an 8 course meal used to celebrate the Feast of Saint Joseph. This feast was brought to America from Calabria, Italy by my grandmother over a 100 years ago. 
Seeing this is the year of Saint Joseph I thought it may be fitting.”

Pasta A Ceci

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove of minced garlic (or more to taste)
2 cans chick peas undrained
3 chick peas cans of water
1 pound ditalini macaroni
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pecorini romano cheese (I use a lot more and can use parmesan or substitute another grated Italian cheese)
salt, black pepper, basil, parsley to taste

It always tastes better the second days as the flavors infuse to the ditalini. 

Put the oil and garlic in a saucepan and cook until the garlic is lightly browned. Add the chick peas, water and all, plus three more cans of water. Add the salt, pepper and basil and let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes. Cook the ditalini al dente and drain it. Add it to the chick pea mixture and cook them together for 5 minutes. Put the eggs in a small bowl with the cheese and parsley, and beat them well. Add the egg mixture to the ditalini/chickpeas and simmer them all together for 5 minutes.

Polpettes (which means “meatballs” in Italian-though this a meatless recipe)
Makes 36 meatballs

3 cups bread crumbs
2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
4 to 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
15 ounces container ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Romano cheese
6 to 8  large eggs (start with 6 and then can add more)
3/4 cup milk

Vegetable oil for deep frying

In a mixing bowl, throughly combine the bread crumbs, salt, pepper and parsley.  Add the ricotta and Romano cheese to the bowl and mix them in well.  Beat the eggs with the milk and add them to the cheese mixture.  If the resulting mixture seems too stiff, add another egg.  Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls and deep fry them n hot oil until the are golden brown.

Served with your favorite marinara sauce and pasta

Almonds are included in many of the desserts served.
It’s appropriate, too, since St. Joseph is also the patron saint of pastry cooks.
The cannoli recipeI’m sharing  can have either pistachios or almonds in it. 

12 oz whole milk Ricotta cheese, strained
8 oz Mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar**
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
Optional toppings:
Melted chocolate, chopped almonds, pistachios,, etc. 
16-18 cannoli shells
Put ricotta in sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth or basket type coffee filters. Set over bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator anywhere from at least 12-24 hours. This is important so that it drains well and is not too loose to fill shells.
Beat drained ricotta with  mascarpone and powdered sugar. Fold in chocolate chips, Store in refrigerator until ready to fill cannolis. 

Place filling in pastry bag without a tip. Pipe into one end about halfway through then fill the other end the same way. Dip into nuts, etc. and serve sprinkled with a dusting of powdered sugar

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