Tag Archives: St. Joseph’s Day

Celebrating St. Joseph’s Day in New Orleans

We are heading to New Orleans for two of our favorite only-in-New-Orleans events, St. Joseph’s Day (March 19) and the Sunday closest to it, known as “Super Sunday” (which we can assure you has nothing to do with the Super Bowl). Super Sunday is the day when Mardi Gras Indians parade their finery through the streets, and St. Joseph’s Day is a holiday with origins in Sicily that celebrates the miracle of St. Joseph saving the island from famine (see our previous coverage here). And oddly enough, these two days are related, and Mardi Gras Indians also march on St. Joseph’s night.

The altar at St. Francis Xavier Church in Metairie, LA

Though other areas in the US obviously have Sicilian-American populations, the tradition of the St. Joseph’s Day altar is observed with fervor in New Orleans, owing to its particularly concentrated Sicilian population. St. Joseph’s Day is observed in New Orleans to a much larger degree than it is elsewhere, even Sicily. Every Catholic church and high school in greater New Orleans seems to have an elaborate St. Joseph’s Day altar, and they can range from modest altars in homes to unthinkably huge, sometimes taking up the entire Church community center. The altars, contributed to by parishioners and the community, traditionally have three tiers and are decked out with statues, flowers, photos, candles and food. All of the photos in this post are from altars we visited in 2016.

Pasta Milanese, Fried fish, veggies and more at St. Joseph’s in Gretna, LA

Typical St. Joseph’s Day altars are decked out with tons of food, including citrus, fanciful breads in shapes representing Joseph’s trade as a carpenter (or even fish or figures), whole fish, dozens of varieties of cookies, fava beans, and more (You may even see a lamb cake or two). And if you visit a church on St. Joseph’s Day in New Orleans you will probably be treated to a bowl of Pasta Milanese or other meatless favorites. Pasta Milanese is similar to pasta con sarde, but with tomatoes, and of course you have to top it with breadcrumbs, representing the Joseph’s carpentry sawdust – check out this recipe from Sicilian Girl.

Cookie display at St. Augustine Church in New Orleans, LA

Our favorite St. Joseph’s Day food is probably the fig-filled cuccidati cookie, which are also traditionally made at Christmas. We bought a cookbook on St. Joseph’s Day at one of the churches we visited a few years ago, which now provides us with our go-to cuccidati recipe. The St. Joseph’s Day altars are cookie heaven, and volunteers spend weeks making literally tens of thousands of cookies for some of the larger altars. We also like to seek out some of the unique foods that are probably unseen outside of a single parish, like the amazing, giant, fleur-de-lis crawfish-shaped “Craw-fig” cookie below, that we spotted on an altar in Metairie.

The altar at St. Francis Xavier Church in Metairie, LA

At the end of St. Joseph’s Day, the altar is symbolically broken in the “Tupa tupa” ceremony and the food and donations are distributed to charity. You will probably also get handed a fava bean for luck, and a bag of cookies to take home. And if you manage to steal a lemon from the altar it means you will get married (or have a baby) by the next St. Joseph’s Day. We love to go around New Orleans and the surrounding area on St. Joseph’s Day and visit all of the altars, since no two are alike. For 2018 we found a few guides (Italian American Center, ABC) to all of the St. Joseph’s Day churches in the area.

The altar at St. Joseph Church in Gretna, LA

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How to make St. Joseph’s Day Bread / Pane di San Giuseppe

One of our favorite – but lesser known in the US – food holidays is right around the corner: St. Joseph’s Day. St. Joseph’s Day is widely celebrated in Italy and the among the Italian diaspora in the US and elsewhere on March 19th. We have previously covered some St. Joseph’s Day sweet treats, including the perennial favorite zeppole. However, one of the showstoppers on St. Joseph’s Day is actually St. Joseph’s Bread (Pane di San Giuseppe). You can find recipes for Pane di San Giuseppe at Kitchen Link and Mangia Bene Pasta. It is a bit more of a complicated bread, but it also allows for it to be sculpted into equally complicated shapes, like staffs, carpentry tools, and wheat, which are a must on the St. Joseph’s Day table. This altar below, from Trapani in Sicily is probably as detailed as you can get!

Pane di San Giuseppe by Carlo Columba

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St. Joseph’s Day Tables and Treats in Chicago

ItalyToday, Italian-Americans are partaking in a celebratory feast of St. Joseph. This weekend, elaborate, food-filled St. Joseph’s day tables went up all over Chicagoland (and Italian communities scattered around the world), and people are partaking in special holiday treats like zeppole, pasta di San Giuseppe and pasta con sarde. Some of Chicago’s more traditional Italian bakeries, like Alegretti’s in Norridge, turn out special treats for the influx of visitors on this holiday. Eater Chicago even has a map of 10 bakeries where you can get your St. Joseph’s Day treats (a handy list for any baked good need, really).

St. Joseph's Day Table

St. Joseph’s Day Table / San Guiseepe in Sclafani Bagni, Sicily by La Tartien Gourmand

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A Visit to Sicily on St. Joseph’s Day

SicilySt. Joseph’s Day is one of our favorite food holidays. It is easy to see why: just look at the spread on the St. Joseph’s Day Table below. La Tartine Gourmand went to Sicily in 2012 during the Festa di San Giuseppe shared some amazing pictures of the food for St. Joseph’s Day they discovered there. The pictures are amazing, and help to give a real picture of what everyday Sicilian Cuisine is like. While we’re happy to be in Rio de Janeiro, we wish we could be in Sicily today!

St. Joseph's Day Table

St. Joseph’s/San Guiseppe  Day Table  in Sclafani Bagni, Sicily by La Tartinr Gourmand

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Savory Zeppole for St. Joseph’s Day

ItalyWe have previously written about partaking in Sweet Zeppole for St. Joseph’s Day – one of our favorite holiday treat traditions. However, we were never even aware there was a savory variety of Zeppole. However, it seems that in the region of Calabria, savory Zeppole are a preferred option. Zeppole are basically fried dough fritters, so it make sense they could toe the sweet/savory line. Savory Zeppole can be made with anchovies or served plain. It seems like they would would probably go perfectly with another popular St. Joseph’s Day dish: Pasta con Sarde (with sardines).

Plain Zeppole

Plain Zeppole in Williamsburg, Brooklyn by Phil H

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Pasta di San Giuseppe – St. Joseph’s Day Pasta

Giuseppe

St. Joseph’s Day Pasta – by Erin Zieske

March 19th is St. Joseph’s Day, a holiday celebrated in Southern Italy, or in communities of southern Italian Immigrants. Naturally, having the proper food is a huge part of St. Joseph’s Day, with many churches even constructing elaborate St. Joseph’s Day altars full of food. We’ve written previously on the most famous St. Joseph’s Day food – the fried sweet Zeppole – so this year we wanted to introduce another holiday dish – Pasta di San Guiseppe. There are many variations on the recipes – but at its core it is a dish of pasta and breadcrumbs. The pasta dishes made on this day are typically meatless to represent the famines experienced in Sicily. The breadcrumbs represent sawdust, which is symbolic of the profession of St. Joseph, carpentry. Another popular dish for St. Joseph’s Day is Pasta con Sarde (Pasta chi Sardi in Sicilian)  – pasta with Sardines [another version here].

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Annual St. Joseph’s Day Post

Zeppole by Caleb Lost

We here at ETW do a St. Joseph’s Day post every year, mainly as a reason to feature zeppole, a delicious custard-filled doughnut. Currently I (L) am in a location where the zeppole landscape is unknown to me, so I’ll be up bright an early to see if I can find any at the local bakeries. But in the meantime here’s a recipe from Giada.

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Zeppole for St. Joseph’s Day

HeyZeppoleHappy St. Joseph’s Day! Why not celebrate with a delicious Zeppole? I got this one from Bennison’s Bakery (1000 Davis in Evanston).

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All About St. Joseph’s Day Food (especially Zeppole!)

SicilyFollowing my post on St. Paddy’s day eats, I have to mention St. Joseph’s Day, a holiday in Italy JosephAltarwhich is accompanied by a delicious treat called the Zeppole. A zeppole is a fried donut-like pastry that is filled with jam or cream and topped with powdered sugar. They are traditionally made especially for St. Joseph’s Day. About.com has a simple recipe, as well as an extensive history of the humble zeppole.

St. Joseph’s Day (March 19) is one of the biggest holidays in Sicily (and some other parts of Southern Italy). Joseph is the patron saint of Sicily since people say that in the middle ages peasants prayed to him and he ended a drought. Now, in remembrance of this feat, some Sicilians create altars full of food and plenty in honor of the day. Fava beans, the crop St. Joseph saved, are popular, as are citrus fruits, which happen to be prolific in Sicily. The tradition has spread to places with large Sicilian immigrant populations, especially New Orleans. There is a lot of interesting history of Louisiana altars (like the one at right) at the Houston Institute for Culture.

This year, I found a list of places with “St. Joseph Tables” in Chicagoland in the Sun Times. I imagine it would be a cool experience to go to one.

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