Did someone say zeppole? The Feast of San Giuseppe is approaching! Often called Italian Father's Day, the feast day honoring Joseph, better known as Mary's husband and the foster father to baby Jesus, is celebrated each year on March 19th and always accompanied by a variety of sweets. Get your stomach ready because here are 8 treats to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day that you can’t pass up:
Zeppole di San Giuseppe
In the 1800s, a Neapolitan baker named Pasquale Pintauro, made a variation on the traditional zeppole to honor the saint. The crust is typically crunchier than the soft dough of a zeppole. They are topped with custard or cream and decorated with a piece of fruit like a candied cherry.
Tortelli di San Giuseppe
These puffy sweets are made with choux pastry and fried in oil. They are more delicate than a zeppole, but often topped with sugar. These are common in northern regions of Italy, especially in Lombardy.
Sfince di San Giuseppe
Similar to a zeppole, but made from a fluffier dough, these Sicilian treats are topped with ricotta cream – like the filling of a cannoli – and decorated with candied fruits and nuts.
This Roman puff pastry is fried in oil and dusted with sugar. Sometimes they are filled with a patisserie cream or sweetened ricotta. Romans eat these fried cream puffs because Joseph, to feed his family on their return home, worked as a baker known as a frittellaro, or "pancake baker."
These ravioli are actually made from shortcrust pastry rather than pasta dough making them more like a fruit-filled cookie than an actual ravioli. They are folded over into a half-moon shape. The pockets are filled with jams and preserved fruits. The holiday often marked the end of winter, and tradition dictated that the cookies were given out to passing friends and neighbors.
Ravioli di San Giuseppe
In southern regions, sweet ravioli filled with chocolate or a mixture made from chickpeas and walnuts are fried and topped with powdered sugar.
Frittelle di Riso
In Tuscany, fritters made from rice flour are traditionally fried and topped with sugar. They can be flavored with amaretto and lemon peel.
Another treat with origins in Sicily are cuccidati, a fig-filled cookie similar to a Fig Newtown. Usually they are topped with Royal icing and maybe even some colorful sprinkles. The dough typically has a nutty flavor to it and many recipes include ground up nuts. The cookies are common at Christmas, but also come out for St. Joseph's Day. The most common shape is creating a long log and slicing off pieces.
Ian MacAllen is America Domani's Senior Correspondent and the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American. He is a writer, editor, and graphic designer living in Brooklyn. Connect with him at IanMacAllen.com or on Twitter @IanMacAllen.