In Italy this weekend they will celebrate Father’s Day, which falls on March 19th, the feast of San Giuseppe, or St Joseph. Because he was the earthly father of Jesus Christ, celebrating all fathers on this day elevates their role in the family and makes more sense than a random Sunday in June!
As with all religious holidays in Italy, special foods are used to mark and celebrate the occasion and differ from region to region. In Sicily, where the Festa di San Giuseppe is said to have originated after a severe drought, they build altars to St Joseph in their homes. A table is decorated with flowers and statues of St Joe and the Holy Family and covered with special breads and savory dishes. Because it is in the middle of Lent, the feast day specialties often feature fish, such as a pasta dish of canned sardines cooked with tomato and wild fennel fronds. The pasta dish is then topped with bread crumbs, representing the sawdust that would have covered the floor of St Joseph’s workshop. A special cream puff, zeppole, is made in Naples, filled with pastry cream and topped with a cherry.
Click here for more history on the feast of San Giuseppe
My favorite treat for San Giuseppe are the fried rice balls they make in Tuscany. Frittelle di San Giuseppe are balls of arborio rice flavored with lemon and orange zest. Fried in hot oil and rolled in granulated sugar, they are sweet, crunchy and available in bakeries and special outdoor stands at this time of year. In the main Piazza di Campo of Siena, a small wooden hut is erected at the end of February and manned by the retired men and women of the community. The men fry the frittelle in large vats of hot oil and the women wrap them in cones of paper and sell them all day and into the evening, 3 for a euro. The delicious smell of frying dough fills the piazza! We were lucky to be there in February, it had been several years since I’d had them!
However the feast of San Giuseppe is celebrated, it’s a way to let you know winter is drawing to a close and spring is on it’s way!
Happy Fathers Day to all you fathers! If you are lucky enough to still have your dad, be sure to give him some Italian love on this special day!
Here is the recipe for Frittelle di San Giuseppe:
1 lb rice
3 quarts water
1 teas salt
Zest from 1 orange and 1 lemon
2 tbsp flour