St. Joseph’s Day Sfinge
What St. Patrick is to Irish-Americans, St. Joseph is to Italian-Americans, especially Sicilians. St. Joseph is the patron of Sicily, and Sicilians asked his intercession to save them from a drought and famine. The rains came, the crops grew, and so he is honored every year on his feast day of March 19.
Since I’m half Sicilian and Joe’s namesake is St. Joseph, we obviously had to celebrate. We wore red (the way everyone wears green for St. Patrick’s day, unless you forgot like Joe) and I made pasta with anchovies and breadcrumbs – since it’s Lent, the traditional dishes don’t have meat, and breadcrumbs symbolize the sawdust from St. Joseph’s carpentry. I also made sfinge for dessert, which is one of my all-time favorite Sicilian pastries. I remember my mama and my dad making them for holidays when I was growing up, then later found out that they’re a traditional St. Joseph’s Day treat. We frequently forget to plan ahead enough to celebrate feast days, but there was no way I was going to miss making sfinge. I was also excited to have Grace help me as I made them this year, so my kids can have some of the same fun memories that I did.
There are a lot of recipes and variations for sfinge, but I know better than to mess with an Italian grandmother’s recipe that works, so here it is:
1 lb ricotta (I used a 15oz container, it was fine)
6 TB sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
powdered sugar for dusting
vegetable oil for cooking (about 2 cups)
Mix wet and dry ingredients separately, then combine. Heat oil in pan. To test heat, drop a spoonful of batter in the oil. When the oil is hot enough, the sfinge will turn over by themselves. It’s important not to overcrowd them, because that will bring the heat of the oil down. Fry them until they are golden-brown on both sides, then remove with a slotted spoon and dust with powdered sugar. Serve hot.