Written by Danielle Oteri
The feasts of Italian saints is a topic I have been fascinated with for years.
For Catholics, each day of the calendar has a corresponding saint. You may have heard people refer to their “name day,” that being the feast day of the saint after whom they were named.
These days are widely observed in Italy and in many Italian-American communities. The associated processions and rituals have their roots deep in Roman and medieval history.
What’s most interesting for us is that each saint’s day demands you eat a particular kind of food.
On the feast of Saint Joseph, you eat sfingi, or cream puffs. Saint Anthony has you picking up a loaf of blessed bread from the church. For Saint Agatha, you eat pastry nipples.
Think that’s strange? Wait till the feast of Saint Lucy, when I give you the recipe for eyeball bread!
September 27 is the feast of Saint Cono, an obscure saint from the hill town of Teggiano, near Salerno.
Legend says that Cono was born with a cone shaped head, a symbol of the Trinity. He wanted to become a monk, which was against his mother’s wishes that he marry a nice Italian girl and have some kids.
Finally, she relented when she found Cono praying in a burning bread oven, unharmed by the heat and flames.
Emigrants from Teggiano went to Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina—and Brooklyn. The small Italian community that still lives in the middle of Williamsburg celebrates Saint Cono as a last remaining thread to Teggiano.
Richardson Street between Lorimer and Union has the official second name “San Cono Strada” because his unofficial shrine remains there, in a private residence.
There are a lot of people in Williamsburg named Cono, and there used to be quite a few businesses with Cono in the name as well.
Many have moved on but you can still dine at Cono & Sons O’Pescatore at 301 Graham Avenue. They serve good, traditional Italian-American fare like reliable scalloppini, saltimbocca, and zuppa di pesce. [Update: Cono & Sons O’Pescatore is sadly closed as of September 2010.]
But you can have your own feast as well, and prepare this typical dish from Teggiano in honor of Saint Cono. (And if you want to sound like you’re from Teggiano, call them gavateel.)
- 1 pound broccoli rabe (about 2 bunches)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt + additional to taste
- 1 pound cavatelli pasta (or any cone-shaped pasta)
- 2 tablespoons + 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 3/4 pound hot Italian sausages, casings removed
- Bring a large (8-quart) pot of water to a boil.
- While the water heats, trim the tough stem ends off the broccoli rabe and roughly chop the leaves and tender stems into large bite-sized pieces. Rinse thoroughly.
- Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt and the broccoli rabe to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes to blanch.
- With tongs, transfer the broccoli rabe to a colander to drain.
- Bring the water back up to a boil, then add the pasta and cook until just shy of al dente—it should still have a little bite to it.
- While the pasta cooks, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add the sausage, breaking the meat up into smaller pieces with a spatula as it cooks.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
- Add the pasta, reserved water, reserved broccoli rabe, and the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil to the pan with the sausage.
- Stir together and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Season with additional salt as needed and serve immediately.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1.25 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 392Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 1129mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 3gSugar: 1gProtein: 14g
The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.
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