In Italy, it's a big deal. St. Joseph's Day is widely celebrated as the Italian equivalent of Father's Day and is a religious holiday. And , like all things Italian, they celebrate it with food peculiar to the day. My dad (another Joe) told me that when he was a child, his name day was as important as his birthday and was always celebrated by his grandmother with a steaming cup of hot chocolate waiting on the breakfast table.When I was a child, we went to mass at our local parish, St Joseph's in Astoria and had the day off. So, I thought I would look into making something special. A quick search led me to Paula Laurita's web site for bigne di San Giuseppe, St. Joseph's Day pastries.The recipe looked a little confusing like many Italian directions. Lol. (Never ask an Italian how to get somewhere.) However, as an experiment, I thought I'd try it. I also had to think about dinner since Neeta was coming home, so I thought I'd make the pastry with a ricotta filling and use the leftover to make baked macaroni. That's how the whole project began.
I had questions about this recipe right away. First off, it said to boil the water, then as soon as it came to a boil, take the pot off the heat and dump in the flour. Did that mean to wait till the water was just starting to boil like it is here, or waiting till it came to a full boil ?
I chose this stage of boiling. I took it off the heat, dumped in the flour and using a soup spoon tried to stir it " till smooth". Smooth? What does that mean? No lumps?
This is as "smooth"as I could get it. Maybe it would be smoother if I added the flour at the beginning of the boiling. Then the recipe says stir in 5 tablespoons of butter with the pot on medium heat. Another problem because that's a lot of butter for just 3/4 cup of flour, isn't it? It says to stir till the dough forms a ball and no longer sticks to the pot. Well, that happens pretty quick and there's a lot of butter on the bottom of the pot still.
Next, it says to let the dough cool then beat in 4 eggs one at a time. I did that and got a bowl full of dough that was the consistency of pancake batter. Then, I was supposed to add Lemoncello and vanilla. I drank all my Lemoncello unfortunately, or somebody did. It wasn't in the freezer where I saw it last, so I used Grand Marnier instead. Then, I was supposed to wait 15 minutes.
While I was letting the batter rest, I made the ricotta filling using a pound of drained fresh ricotta and a whole cup of powdered sugar reasoning that the pastry had no sugar so the filling should. I put some vanilla and almond extract in the filling too. After 15 minutes, I spooned the batter on to a baking sheet. I was not expecting the pancake shaped things you see on the left, so I hoped that baking them would puff them up.
Ten minutes at 400 degrees, followed by 20 minutes at 375 degrees, and letting them "dry" and cool in the shut off oven produced what you see. They certainly weren't puffed up like cream puffs, which is what I suspected, but were relatively easy to split open (with a little crumbling).
I piped the filling onto half of the split pieces and topped each with a dollop of cherry preserves, so they were like these little crispy sandwiches. They tasted ok, but I still don't know if I followed these odd directions correctly. If any of you care to try the recipe, please do so and let me know. Or, if you have experience with this type of pastry, I would love to know if I did it right.
While my pastries were cooking and drying, I made some marinara sauce and added some of it to the left over ricotta. Then, I cooked the pasta. This is important. If you're cooking pasta that will be baked further in the oven, you must under cook it so that it will be the right texture after baking.So the package directions for this "mezzi rigatoni" called for boiling it for 14 minutes to be al dente. I cooked it for just 10 minutes before draining it and adding it to my baking dish.
I mixed the drained pasta with the ricotta sprinkled with a little dried oregano, topped it with a few thin slices of mozzarella and grated parmigiana regiano and baked it for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. The last 10 minutes, after the cheese melted, I covered the dish with foil.
The bottom line? The smile on the lady letting me know it was "Good Joseph!"