Saturday, March 20, 2010

St. Joseph's Day pastries and baked macaroni

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!"


  1. Joe, I checked out the link to this recipe and it sounds like a pat a choux, which is used for gougeres,profiteroles and eclairs...etc. You mustn't give up. Give this another try. They are suposed to be puffy. You have the right idea. Check out Michael Ruhlman's blog. There is an older post on gougeres that is specific for the pate a choux mixing. Also love any dish with ricotta, yum-yummy. I can taste the baked pasta dish from here ;D !

  2. hmmmm, the interior of those things I made did have that eclair like texture. Maybe,I'm on the right track here.Thank you for the encouragement, C and M.

  3. Hi Joe! first of all, Auguri for Joseph's day (your name Joe is Joseph, right?). There were events everywhere in Liguria celebrating this day..
    I read about your italian! You know, I found very interesting these stories. Sometimes I think about how courageous were italians in making these choices. You know, I live in Liguria, now it's a very long time, but I was born in Sicily (in the ancient city of Palermo) but my parents decided to travel since I was 4 years old. You know, some years ago I went back in Sicily and spoke with my mother relatives (her hundtred-year-old grandma) and she told me that my ancestors were spain nobles that lived in Sicily. I was so interested and for that I have started a search to know more about it...
    Oh! I love your pasta with ricotta, mozzarella and parmiggiano in Italy now it's lunch time, so you give me a good idea with this pasta! I will cook it today, thanks! :-)
    Buona giornata

  4. Auguri di San Giuseppe (belated)!!!
    Did you make zeppole too? Last year I posted the recipe on March 19th and it was a big success.

    Thank you for your visit over at my place and for your sweet comment about your nonna making fried sage leaves.


  5. I can't make these desserts unless I have a party. Otherwise, I end up eating all the left overs.

  6. Your guest is lovely, Joe and your pasta looks wonderful. If it helps at all, I dump flour into rapidly boiling water and stir till smooth. I then return the pot to the stove and cook, stirring constantly until dough mass coats the pan. I remove it and transfer to another bowl to beat in eggs, one at a time until they are incorporated. Whether you bake or deep fry them they should get puffy. Keep trying! Once you get it right it's like riding a bike. The technique will always come back to you.

  7. Thanks Mary. I've been tracking down some eclair/pat a choux recipes now that I've done this one. I noticed some boil the water and butter together. I think that might work.I'm encouraged to try again!

  8. Hi Joe, You're quite ambicious! I've never tried making these but always make sure I get over to my favorite Italian bakery before their gone, they won't be around til next year 2 weeks before St. Joseph's day. Love your baked pasta, what a nice meal for your wife!

  9. Baked macaroni sounds really good! I always love those.