Bignè di San Giuseppe

An awful lot of saints are celebrated in Italy. They have almost twice as many bank holidays as their European neighbours, despite the fact that a number of festivals have since been done away with, returning to the status of feriali (work days). San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Day) on March 19th, is one of those lost holy days which still gets plenty of attention, however, thanks to a peculiar culinary tradition. March 19th is the day when you eat the bignè di San Giuseppe, cloud-like puffs of fried dough, piped full with custard or ricotta. According to legend, Mary’s husband sold bignè between jobs as a carpenter, although there is something distinctly Italian about these soft, amber pastries, oozing gooey sweetness when you bite through their velvety dough. In Rome, you find bignè in every bar and pasticceria worth its salt on March 19th, rigorously filled with white ricotta or yellow cream, although jam was also used in older times. Further south, bignè are known as zeppole or sfinge di San Giuseppe, and are made to a slightly tougher consistency.

Photo courtesy of Susan Wright, an Australian travel, lifestyle and portrait photographer based in Rome, Italy.

Words © Isobel Lee
Photos © Susan Wright