We Italians often look for connections to St. Patrick so that we can take part in the great celebrations on St. Patrick's Day... the parades, the beer, the music, the dance and of course, the food. We'll even wear green on his day (perhaps with a little white and red too). Here are some reasons to connect St Patrick to Italians and Romans:
Ok, so maybe I'm stretching a bit here, but on St. Patrick's Day in our home, we go all out and become Irish. Sure, we might wear green (if we remember to), but the more obvious thing is the music and food. We've always loved traditional Irish music. In fact, as I write this, we are getting ready to go to a Chieftains concert tonight. Lisa and I have seen the Chieftains several times before, but this is our wee lad Lucas' first time. On St. Patrick's Day we play nothing but Irish and Celtic music. (Oh... that's right, both the Italians and the Irish play a type of bagpipe... another connection! Read our Bagpipe article HERE.)
The other Irish tradition we have is very Italian, I think. Eating. Each year I make a great Shepherd's Pie while Lisa makes an Irish Soda Bread. For drink, it's Harp lager--not wine. All that's missing is the Blarney Stone. A couple of years ago we made a mistake and invited some friends over to share in our Irish feast, but the evening left us without any leftovers! We're now very selfish about our Shepherd's Pie.... locking the doors, turning the music up high, watching the St. Patrick's Day Parade saved on our TIVO and filling our bellies with the Irish starchy equivalent of pasta--potatoes!
Here's my take on Shepherd's Pie...
Babbo Finzi's Shepherd's Pie
Use an larger size pie plate (we use Emile Henry's 11") or a casserole equivalent to a half size lasagna pan.
1 1/2 pounds Lean Ground beef
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup carrots, 1/2-inch dice
1 cup sliced celery, 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, sliced (not crushed) thinly
8 ounces diced tomatoes (Canned Italian style)
11 ounces canned corn (Green Giant Shoepeg is our favorite)
1 14 ounce can Italian flat beans (Del Monte Italian Cut, if canned)
1 cup beer (Harp Lager, etc.)
1 cup beef broth
2-3 bay leaves (remember to remove them before filling your pie!)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper (40 cracks with a pepper mill)
1 tablespoon cornstarch (make a light paste by adding cold water to thicken, as needed)
3 pounds, peeled potatoes (Yukon Gold preferred) boil until tender
1 tablespoon margarine, Parkay Squeeze (substitute butter if cholesterol isn't an issue)
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (we use packaged Irish Dubliner)
Putting The Shepherd's Pie Together & Baking
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool down a bit before serving. A fruity nut bread or Irish Soda bread goes great with this dish. A green salad is also a great side dish. We like to have a nice Irish lager, like Harp with it... Lucas like's having a glass of sparkling cider.
Lá Shona Fhéile Pádraig!
(Happy St. Patrick's Day!)