Zeppole (credit Maria Gagliano, Open Salon)

March is a month of change and hope, hope and change.

Whether we’re talking about the weather (“in like a lion, out like a lamb”), the Ides of March (a turning point in Italian history), St. Patrick’s Day (ridding the island of snakes) or St. Joseph’s Day (saving Sicily from  famine), the events of March are about change and hope for better times.

Growing up in a community that had two Catholic Churches (one Italian and one Irish), early on I understood that these feasts were celebrated by cultural communities. Everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) to wear green, and to enjoy green beer, parades, and parties (and a respite from Lent).

In many communities, St. Joseph needs a new PR agent—to boost things up a bit or for international parity. Just two days after St. Patrick’s Day, St. Joseph is recognized with his feast day on March 19, Festa della San Giuseppe, that reaches the level of Father’s Day in Italy. Wear red, come together with the community, dine on Minestrone and Fava Beans, and enjoy special sweet treats.

Legend has it that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. St. Joseph’s credit is due for saving the Sicilians from famine during the Middle Ages. So, the Italians also get a festival day during Lent. In Italy, entire villages come together for a feast.

Enjoy these sweet recipes for your St. Joseph’s Day traditions:

Sfinge (many spellings!)

– Remember the Italian Catholic parish mentioned in the beginning of this article? You can find the recipe from my home parish cookbook, posted online here.

Zeppole: a style of Italian doughnuts, fried, dusted with sugar, cinnamon, and honey—or filled with a yellow cream

– Rosetta Constantino’s Southern Italian Desserts  includes a recipe for Zeppole, with a variation for Sfinge. You can see the recipe for Zeppole di San Giuseppe here on One for the Table.

Pignolatta or Struffoli: reminiscent of the seeds of a pine cone, think of little friend pastry balls, and covered in honey, nuts, or chocolate

– See recipe and photo here at Roxana’s Home Baking.

Cannoli – pastry tubes filled with a creamy mixture, often made with Ricotta. We recommend a blend of Ricotta and Crèma di Pistacchio DOP Bronte! If you have cannoli shells, use this filling or start a new tradition with the recipe.

Enjoy the festivals of March. Be sure to celebrate the new season!