Tomorrow, March 17th. millions of people will be celebrating St. Patrick’s day, but few realize that two days later many Southern Italians and Sicilians will celebrate the feast of St. Joseph the Carpenter with traditional St. Joseph’s Soup.
As St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, many consider St. Joseph the patron saint of Sicily. In Sicily and many Italian American communities thanks are given to Saint Joseph for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation, and is a traditional part of St. Joseph’s Day feast, traditions and recipes. Giving food to the needy is another Saint Joseph’s Day tradition.
My mother was a big fan of St. Joseph and made March 19th. a family holiday. Growing in a mixed Italian/Irish neighborhood and going to catholic school, she took exception to us being off from school on St. Paddy’s Day. Two days later she called me in sick.
She would make loafs of bread and have me deliver them to people in our neighborhood that she felt were in need, ill or just good friends. Dinner was always kind of simple, but included St, Joseph’s Soup. A recipe using, you guessed it, fava beans.
I look back on that memory now and feel a sadness in letting many of these family traditions slip away. This year I plan to make a St. Joseph’s soup on March 19th. If you are interested, here’s the recipe:
- 7 ounces of dried fava beans
- 7 ounces of lentils
- 1 lb. of assorted vegetables (potatoes, onions, carrots, cauliflower)
- 1/2 lb. of short pasta
- 1 bunch of fennel
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Soak the legumes overnight, drain and rinse them and put in a saucepan with plenty of water. Add salt and cook for 1 hour.
Clean, dice and boil the vegetables in salted water. Vegetables should not get too soft, at which time they should be placed in with the beans and lentils. Cook for another 20 minutes.
Add hot water if needed and add the pasta to cook until al dente. Cook over moderate flame, stirring from time to time. Season with a drizzle of oil.
- Irish, Italian cultures meet their match in celebration of saints (courierpress.com)
- Saints Patrick and Joseph (fonsofafool.wordpress.com)
- A Sicilian cookbook leads to a new restaurant: Gigi’s Cucina Povera (buffalorising.com)
- Fresh Green Fava Beans – A Sustainable Persian Recipe (greenprophet.com)