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St. Joseph Fig Cookies

4 Delicious and Traditional Recipes for Saint Joseph’s Table

La Festa di San Giuseppe falls each year on March 19, a time when Catholics pay homage to their beloved San Giuseppe. Saint Joseph was the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and took the role of foster father to the Baby Jesus. He was noted as a hard-working man, faithful to God, who worked tirelessly to provide for his family, which is why he is venerated throughout history.

Today, St. Joseph’s Tables also include special pastries as gifts to the Holy Family. Italians enjoy a variety of sfingi or zeppole, known in the U.S. as St. Joseph’s cakes. These pastries vary from region to region, some containing ricotta filling, while others contain sweet pasticciera cream. In honor of this beloved Italian celebration, below are some traditional St. Joseph’s recipes to fill your Tavola di San Giuseppe.

Sicilian-style Fava Bean Soup


  • 3 lbs fresh fava beans
  • 1 lb lentils
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups diced plum tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, shaved


Shell the beans discarding the pods. In large pot of boiling salted water, cook the beans for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water and allow to cool completely. Pinch the skin of each bean to break at one end and then squeeze bean out of skin. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat; cook the onion, garlic and hot pepper flakes for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the vegetable stock, lentils, tomatoes and fava beans; bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. Add parsley and salt. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with cheese.

Sfingi di San Giuseppe


  • ½ cup butter
  • dash of salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp grated orange peel
  • ½ tsp grated lemon peel


Combine butter, salt and water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the flour all at once and mix well until the dough leaves the sides of pan. Remove from the stove and allow to cool. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add sugar, orange and lemon peel and mix thoroughly. Drop by tablespoonful onto a greased baking sheet, leaving 3” space between. Bake in 400°F oven for 10 minutes; reduce the heat to 325°F and bake 30 minutes or until golden brown. Make a slit in the side of each and fill with the pasticciera cream or ricotta filling.

For Ricotta Filling

  • 1 lb ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp candied orange peel, finely cut
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar


Cream ricotta well. Add chocolate chips, orange peel and sugar. Mix well and fill the sfingi.

For Pasticciera Cream (Custard)


  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • ½ tsp grated lemon rind
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tbsp butter


Place the sugar, egg yolks, flour, lemon rind and vanilla extract in saucepan and mix well. Scald the milk and pour over mixture, beating constantly with rotary beater. Continue cooking over a low flame, stirring with wooden spoon until mixture reaches the boiling point. Cook for an additional 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the stove and add butter; mix well. Pour into bowl and let cool, stirring occasionally to prevent skin from forming over top. Fill the sfingi.

St. Joseph’s Fig Cookies


  • ½ cup honey
  • 6 tbsp grappa
  • 4 tsp orange juice
  • 2 cups diced dried black figs
  • 3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup walnut pieces

For the Glaze

  • 1½ cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk, or as needed


In saucepan, bring honey, grappa and orange juice to boil. Add the figs and bring to a simmer. Simmer until figs are plumped, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool thoroughly while you make the dough.

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse to combine. In a small bowl, beat eggs and milk. With the processor running, pour egg/milk mixture into the dry ingredients and process until the dough forms a ball, about 15 to 20 seconds. Knead dough on counter once or twice, then wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or until firm.

When the filling is cool, scrape into a food processor and add lemon zest and cinnamon. Process to make a smooth paste. Add the walnuts and pulse a few times, leaving the nuts slightly chunky. Transfer filling to a bowl and freeze until firm, about ½ hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Divide dough in half and roll one half between parchment paper to a rectangle about 16” by 7”. Cut strip in half to make 2 long strips. Roll a quarter of the filling into a log that fits down the center of 1 strip. Wet the edges of the strip with water and use parchment as a guide to roll into a log and seal. Flatten the top slightly with the palm of your hand. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Using a wet knife, cut logs into 1” lengths and place with the cut sides facing out on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake until golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and cool completely.

To glaze cookies, sift confectioner’s sugar into a bowl and whisk in milk to make a smooth glaze. Pour glaze over cookies and let dry on wire racks.