A Dish for Saint Joseph’s Day

st-josephs-4Today may be Saint Patrick’s Day, when I honor my Irish heritage, but since I don’t have any Irish recipes up my sleeve today, I decided instead to honor my other half, my Italian side. 

 March 19th is Saint Joseph’s Day, which is celebrated with a special dish in many Italian-American households.   Since the day typically falls during the Lenten season, meatless dishes are traditional.  Some families eat Pasta con le Sarde (pasta with sardines), but my family always made a pasta dish with beans. We called it simply “Saint Joseph’s Macaroni.”

 You’ve often heard me tout the practicality of using canned beans, but in this case, I use dried beans, just as my grandmother did.  Dried beans are extremely inexpensive and last for ages in your pantry, but you do need to plan in advance.  Most dried beans require at least 8 hours of soaking time and an additional 2-3 hours of cooking time.  My mother once made a version with canned beans which was very good, but since I had all the dried beans on hand, I decided to stick with my grandmother’s original recipe.

 In my family’s version of Saint Joseph’s Macaroni, we use three types of beans (red kidney, lentils, and split green peas) and three types of pasta (broken spaghetti, ditalini, and elbows). Onions, fennel and spinach are also added to create a delicious, earthy dish that satisfies even the heartiest of appetites.  Salt and olive oil (“2 ladles full”, according to my grandmother’s recipe) are added at the end, and are essential to the flavor of the dish.  It is delicious and healthy, and definitely worth making more than once a year!

 Saint Joseph’s Macaronist-josephs-2

Serves 8

1/4 lb dried red kidney beans
1/4 lb split green peas
1/4 lb dried lentils
2 onions, chopped
1/2 bulb fresh fennel, plus the green fronds, chopped
1/2 lb pasta (combination of elbows, ditallini and broken spaghetti)
6 oz fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
Olive oil
salt
Sort through the beans, checking for stones, and then rinse thoroughly under cold water.
Place the kidney beans and split peas in a large bowl and cover with water by about 3 inches. Soak for 8 hours or overnight.
Drain beans in a collander and add to a large soup pot together with the lentils, chopped onions and chopped fennel.
Add 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Simmer for 2-3 hours, or until beans are softened.
Add the pasta and return to a boil. Continue cooking until pasta is al dente.
Add the spinach and stir to combine until it is wilted
Season liberally with salt and drizzle about 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil into the dish.
Stir again, and serve hot.
Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.
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3 Responses to “A Dish for Saint Joseph’s Day”

  1. Wona Miniati Says:

    I never knew about St. Joseph’s day, but now I plan to surprise my husband this week. He’s part-Italian and I know he would love this dish. It looks so comforting and nutritious. Thanks for the idea!

  2. Hannah Says:

    What a hearty and satisfying dish! Looks perfect for getting through these last cold days of winter.

  3. St. Joseph’s Macaroni, Simplified « Season To Taste Says:

    […] a thick soup featuring three types of beans and three types of pasta.  Two years ago I posted her original recipe which is made from dried beans.  Dried beans require both overnight soaking and around three hours […]

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